GM discloses CEO pay details after gender-bias question

To counter questions about gender bias in the compensation of its first female chief executive, Mary Barra, General Motors (GM) disclosed details about her pay two months earlier than scheduled. 

Barra will be paid as much as $14.4 million, with the automaker disclosing that the GM executive is entitled to long-term compensation of $10 million, on top of previously disclosed pay of $4.4 million. 

The disclosure goes some way towards assuaging concerns that Barra was being shortchanged in the executive suite. As previously reported by CBS MoneyWatch, General Motors had disclosed via regulatory filings that Barra would earn less than half of her predecessor, Dan Akerson, although the company at the time noted that one piece of her pay -- her long-term compensation -- hadn’t yet been made public. 

 GM may be finding itself jumping from the frying pan into the fire with the latest disclosure. Sure, it’s great that Barra will be paid what GM now says is 60 percent more than Akerson, but her pay package means she’s also outpacing the $12.3 million earnings of the average U.S. chief executive. Bloated executive paychecks have come under scrutiny amid widening social inequality and stagnant wages for many workers.

“As a new CEO, Mary’s total compensation is in line with her peer group and properly weighted so that most is at-risk,” said GM chairman Tim Solso in a statement on Monday.  “The company’s performance will ultimately determine how much she is paid.”

The long-term portion of Barra’s contract is subject to shareholder approval at the company’s annual meeting in June, GM added in the statement. Executive compensation at GM had been capped by the Treasury Department under the government's bailout terms, but the government exited its ownership stake late last year.

While Barra will apparently make most of her pay through long-term compensation, her salary is still lower than her predecessor’s, both when he was CEO and in his current role as an advisor. 

Akerson earned $1.7 million in salary in 2012, compared with Barra’s $1.6 million current salary. On top of that, Akerson is still slated to bring home $1.7 million in salary for his work as an senior advisor “on an interim basis,” according to a regulatory filing. 

The highest-paid women among the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies earned 18 percent less than men in 2012, according to a report from Bloomberg. Research shows that even when women have similar credentials as men, they still earn less

Still, if her total package comes through, Barra will end up making more than rivals at other automakers, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes. She’ll earn less than Ford CEO Alan Mulally ($21 million) and VW’s Martin Winterkorn ($19.8 million). 

In the meantime, many autoworkers are toiling for lower wages, part of union concessions to keep jobs in the U.S. instead of moving to Asia or Mexico. The average hourly pay for workers in the motor vehicle manufacturing industry is $21.05, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

That means Barra’s $14.4 million in pay represents 329 times more than what the average motor vehicle manufacturing worker will take home this year. The average CEO pay is now 354 times what the average worker sees in her paycheck, according to the AFL-CIO. In 1982, the ratio was just 42 to one.