Equilar | Associated Press CEO Pay Study 2020: Lisa Su Is First Woman to Become Highest-Paid CEO

May 27, 2020

Amit Batish


Since 2011, Equilar has worked together with the Associated Press on annual CEO pay studies. The most recent edition identified trends in compensation awards for CEOs who served in that role at an S&P 500 company for at least two years as of fiscal year end 2019. Companies must have filed a proxy between January 1 and April 30, 2020 to be included in this study.

Below are some highlights and key findings from this year’s study. The findings from this study reflect 2019 pay packages, prior to any adjustments made amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Key Findings

Pay Packages Increased 4.1% to $12.3 Million

Median total compensation* for individuals included in the 2020 Equilar | Associated Press CEO Pay Study totaled $12.3 million, a 4.1% increase from the year prior. The CEOs in the 2020 study a saw slightly smaller pay increase at the median when compared to 2019, as well as 2018, when there were increases of 7.2% and 8.5%, respectively.

The highest-paid CEO in this year’s study was Lisa Su, CEO at Advanced Micro Devices, who becomes the first woman to top the list since the study’s inception. Su’s 2018 compensation, which was valued as $13.4 million, pales in comparison to 2019. However, Su received the majority of her 2019 pay package in the form of a one-time performance-based stock award. Below is the complete list of the top 10 highest-paid executives that qualified for inclusion.

Company Name Chief Executive Total Compensation
Advanced Micro Devices
Lisa T. Su $58,534,288
David M. Zaslav $45,843,912
Walt Disney
Robert A. Iger $45,550,528
Shantanu Narayen $39,145,631
Reed Hastings $38,577,129
CVS Health
Larry J. Merlo $36,451,749
Brian L. Roberts $36,370,183
Morgan Stanley
James P. Gorman $31,624,470
JPMorgan Chase
James Dimon $31,578,246
Hamid Moghadam $30,383,438

The 20 Female CEOs That Made This Year’s List

Su was not the only women that made this year’s list. In fact, among the 329 executives in this year’s study, 20 were women—one more than the previous year’s study. Those female executives earned a median $13.9 million, compared to $12.3 million at the median for the 309 male executives. The list of women who held the chief executive post at S&P 500 companies in 2018 and 2019—and their reported compensation for the most recent year—is below.

Company Name Chief Executive Total Compensation
Advanced Micro Devices
Lisa T. Su $58,534,288
Lockheed Martin
Marillyn A. Hewson $24,441,171
General Motors Company
Mary T. Barra $21,327,881
International Business Machines
Virginia M. Rometty $19,083,981
General Dynamics
Phebe N. Novakovic $17,828,591
Heather Bresch $16,137,517
Occidental Petroleum
Vicki Hollub $15,990,903
Gail K. Boudreaux $15,473,139
Duke Energy
Lynn J. Good $14,673,478
Susan P. Griffith $14,041,272
Adena T. Friedman $13,737,006
Synchrony Financial
Margaret M. Keane $12,169,308
Ross Stores
Barbara Rentler $12,024,336
Debra A. Cafaro $11,348,335
Michele G. Buck $10,510,474
Beth E. Mooney $9,659,108
CMS Energy
Patricia K. Poppe $8,986,702
Ulta Beauty
Mary N. Dillon $7,064,799
American Water Works
Susan N. Story $5,918,455
Arista Networks
Jayshree Ullal $1,384,171

Industry Breakdown—Communication Services Overtakes Healthcare

This year’s study saw a new industry emerge with the highest median CEO pay package among S&P 500 companies at $27.8 million, topping the healthcare industry, which led the way in each of the last two years. The healthcare industry, which includes traditional healthcare, insurance as well as biopharma companies, had the second-highest median CEO pay package at $16.4 million, followed by consumer defensive at $14.0 million. CEOs within the real estate industry were awarded a median $10.4 million, the lowest of the industries in the study. View the full industry comparison below.

13 $27,756,690
42 $16,381,259
13 $13,982,434
24 $13,498,348
59 $12,071,403
41 $11,571,714
15 $11,536,552
37 $11,492,280
39 $11,149,514
21 $10,559,749
25 $10,439,378

Geographical Breakdown—CEOs in the Big Apple Take Home Largest Pay Days

Among states with at least five CEOs in the Equilar | Associated Press study, New York-based CEOs received the highest median pay package. There were 32 New York-based CEOs in this year’s study, who were awarded median total compensation of $14.1 million. Minnesota, which is home to seven CEOs, was second on the list. Minnesotan CEOs received median total compensation of $13.4 million.

For consecutive years now, California boasts more CEOs in the study than New York with 39. Texas (28), Illinois (24) and Massachusetts (17) rounded out the top five states with the highest prevalence of CEOs.

In total, 36 states were represented in the study. Equilar is also conducting a study with the Associated Press on the largest CEO packages awarded to companies in each individual state, regardless of size or index classification.

*Total compensation includes information disclosed in company proxy statements including salary, bonus, stock and options valued at grant date, any deferred compensation, and other compensation (including benefits and perks).

For information regarding this study and the underlying datasets, or to learn more about Equilar Research Services, please visit https://www.equilar.com/research-services.html or email the Equilar research team at researchservices@equilar.com.


Amit Batish

Content Manager at Equilar

Amit Batish, Content Manager at Equilar, authored this post. Charlie Pontrelli, Research Manager, conducted the data and analysis for this study. Please contact Amit Batish at abatish@equilar.com for more information or commentary on Equilar research and data analysis.


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