Top HR Executives Earn $2 Million, Women Take on More Key Roles

October 12, 2021


REDWOOD CITY, CA (October 12, 2021) — Pay packages for the top HR leaders rose 6% in the past year, according to a new Equilar publication, HR Executive Pay Trends. The report found that the median total reported compensation for HR executives at Equilar 500 companies was $2 million in 2021.

“As the dominant conversations in corporate life today swirl around returning to the office, remote working, talent shortages, and vaccination mandates and policies, there’s never been a more challenging time to lead human resources for a large company,” said Nathan Grantz, senior researcher at Equilar. “Add to that the broader trends of diversity, equity and inclusion and the rising importance of human capital management as a critical corporate strategic asset, and it’s easy to see how events of the past two years have sparked a moment for HR departments.”

Among the report’s findings, one noteworthy factor is that the top HR role is heavily dominated by women, both from a numbers standpoint and in terms of how much they’re paid.

In just one year, the share of women in CHRO roles jumped from 59% to about 75% at Equilar 500 companies. Just five years ago, in 2017, 42% of CHRO roles were held by women. This reflects a larger trend. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of women in the CHRO role across the Russell 3000 has grown significantly, from 38% to 62%. In fact, it is the only major C-suite role in the larger index where women hold a majority of positions.

Meanwhile, women are also earning far more as well. For the women in lead HR roles, median pay was $3 million compared to $1.6 million for men. That gap has been growing wider by the year.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Compensation for HR executive roles at companies with more than $50 billion revenue was more than double than among those in the lowest revenue range (less than $10 billion)

  • Communication services led the way among industry sectors in total pay with a median $3.5 million, followed by healthcare and technology, while the utilities and basic materials sectors were the only industries to award less in 2021 than they did in 2020 at the median

  • Performance awards were the most popular vehicle in the HR executive compensation mix, accounting for at least one-quarter, and up to nearly one-third, of the average pay package in 2021

Request a copy of the full report by filling out a request form or by contacting Equilar directly.

About Equilar

Equilar is the leading provider of corporate leadership data solutions. Companies of all sizes rely on Equilar for their most important business decisions, including 70% of the Fortune 500 and institutional investors representing over $20 trillion in assets. Equilar offers data-driven solutions for business development, recruiting, executive compensation and shareholder engagement that bring together business leaders to drive exceptional results. Founded in 2000, Equilar is cited regularly by Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other leading media outlets. Learn more at

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