Ten Highest-Paid Career Women

Earlier this year, Forbes columnist Michael Noer urged readers not to marry career women. Not surprisingly, his Forbes Magazine Online article drew a lot of fire, especially when Noer claimed that nuptials with a career woman would result in “...a higher risk of having a rocky marriage.”

As someone married to a career woman (a director of clinical affairs, no less) for over 20 years, I take exception with Noer's analysis. While my wife is not in the rarified ranks of Fortune Magazine Online's list of the ten highest-paid women, the advantages of marrying a career woman are manifold (million-fold? :-)

Let's look at this list of most successful career women. Do they prove Noer's thesis, or do they somehow find wedded bliss while pursuing a career? If you are curious how your or your spouse's pay compares, find out with our salary calculator.

Work for Larry? You Couldn't Pay Me Enough

Topping the list of highest-paid women is Safra Catz, the President and CFO of Oracle Corp. Safra’s total compensation clocked in at $26.1 million. That’s not enough to get me to work for Oracle Corp Founder Larry Ellison, who seems to go through CFOs like Britney Spears goes through husbands.

Before plying her trade at Oracle Software, Safra Catz worked in various banking positions and served as a Managing Director at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (a global investment bank). She actually met Larry Ellison there while working on Oracle's secondary offering. He subsequently offered her a job as a Senior Vice President in April of 1999.

Catz is married, with two children, at least according to Wikipedia. Her husband is in charge of the household. Kind of goes against the Noer's theory that the man has to make more, doesn't it?

Yahoo.com Career Woman

At number two on the Fortune Magazine Online's list is Susan Decker, the CFO of Yahoo.com, whose total compensation was $24.3 million. Like Safra Catz at Oracle Software, Decker held several jobs at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, including Director of Global Research from 1998 to 2000. Before that, she worked as a securities analyst for 12 years.

If Susan had stayed in her position as a securities analyst, how much would she be making today? According to our Payscale salary survey, a securities analyst in New York City makes an average salary of $154,432, with a high-end annual salary of $348,863; that’s not $24.3 million, but it’s not bad.

And her husband situation? According to a Pixar press release when she joined their board, she is married with three children.

Checking in at number 3 on Fortune Magazine Online's list with $23.1 million in compensation is Suzanne Nora Johnson, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Before joining Goldman Sachs, she was a lawyer for a large law firm, Simpson Thacher and Bartlett. That law firm has offices in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles. What if she worked as a lawyer in the L.A. office, today?  The average attorney salary in Los Angeles is $116,620, which is about half of one percent of her present compensation.

All this, married with no children, and living large in one of the world's best cities: not too shabby.

Carly Fiorina, Tough Choices

Counting down to number four on the Fortune Magazine Online list is the controversial former Hewitt-Packard Chairman and CEO, Carly Fiorina, whose total compensation was $22.3 million. Before joining Hewitt-Packard, Carly Fiorina spent nearly 20 years at Lucent and AT&T, where she started as an account executive.

What if Carly Fiorina were working at her old account executive job today, what would her annual salary be? For an account executive in New York City, the average salary is $103,089, with a high-end of $166,349. Sure, that’s a lot less money, but at least you won’t make the front page of Forbes Magazine when you get fired.

What is Carly's next move? The book tour for Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina. Oh, and hanging out with her husband and two step-children: this year was anniversary 21.

From Internist to Fortune Magazine Online

Jumping down to number six on the Fortune Magazine Online list, we find Susan Desmond-Hellmann, President, Product Development at Genentech (In case you were wondering, #5 is happily married with 3 children). Her total compensation was $17.1 million. Long before she joined Genentech, she went to medical school and actually had a private practice as an internist in Kentucky for two years.

If she were back in Kentucky, working as an internist, what would her physician salary be? A Kentucky internist makes an average salary of $138,069. So how much did she improve her annual salary by making the career moves to her present job?  Today, she is making about 124 times the typical physician salary in Kentucky.

What advice does this career woman have for others? "Do something you're passionate about, that challenges you. Every day I learn something new at Genentech, and even though I didn't have a very well laid out career path, I think I've learned and benefited from everything I did." Oh, and marrying a fellow doctor, and deciding to skip having kids, also is the ticket for a 20+ year strong marriage.

As a statistics guy, I know that 5 data points do not prove a point, but it makes me wonder whether all the gloom and doom about marrying a career woman is real. I expect the answer is, if you are a coach potato, and your spouse has drive, she or he will eventually figure out you are not keeping up your end of the marital contract. As Noer admits, marriages of "low marital quality" are what is at risk. I suspect that is another way of saying having a career gives a woman options, and one of those options is to walk away from a dud husband.

Are you making the most of your career path? Find out with our survey salary.


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