22 April 2020

US GCs and CLOs out-earning global peers by nearly half, new study finds

Major Lindsey & Africa survey shows female GCs in US also earning less than their male colleagues

By Ben Edwards

Portrait of Stephen Rodgers

Intel GC Steven Rodgers was the fourth-highest GC earner in 2018 with total compensation of $16,2m, according to Equilar Business Wire

General counsel and chief legal officers in the US outstrip the pay of their global counterparts by almost half, according to Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2020 Global In-House Compensation Survey.

US-based in-house legal chiefs take home an average of $503,078 a year, including bonuses, 45% more than the $348,842 GCs outside the US earn, the survey data showed. Female GCs in the US also make significantly less than their male peers. Female GCs and CLOs earn $455,796 on average, more than $60,000 lower than men in the same positions. 

Melba Hughes, a partner in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house counsel practice, said: “Much of this differential may be able to be explained by the fact that fewer women hold chief legal officer and general counsel positions than men. Though there’s still a lot of work to be done, we’re optimistic that this disparity will shift in the coming years as a result of efforts to promote diversity in the C-suite.”

The research found that there were, however, noticeable exceptions to the gender pay gap around the world. Women in regional and country-level GC positions reported higher average pay than men. In Asia, for instance, female GCs and CLOs earn an average of $437,428, 13% more than their male peers.

Naveen Tuli, Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house practice managing partner for EMEA and APAC, said: “We were surprised to see that female GCs and CLOs in Asia, as well as female regional and country GCs consistently out-earn their male counterparts. It’s the first time we’ve looked at these particular data sets, and we are eager to continue tracking these groups to see if the trend stands over time.”

GCs and CLOs working in the banking industry took home the highest average pay globally, earning $725,970, followed by those working in financial/professional services ($617,018) and agriculture ($609,720). The lowest earners were GCs working in education and government, taking home $350,018 and $218,980 respectively.

The research also showed a correlation between compensation and a company’s revenue. GCs at companies with revenue above $10bn earn about 30% more than GCs who work at companies with revenue between $1bn and $10bn. 

The highest earning US GC in 2018, according to research by Equilar, was Alphabet's David Drummond, with compensation of $47.3m, followed by Apple's Katherine Adams ($26.7m), Gerson Zweifach ($17.8m) at Twenty-First Century Fox and Intel Corporation's Steven Rodgers (pictured), who took home $16.2m in total compensation.

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