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Pay gap? New GM CEO Mary Barra to earn less than predecessor

New General Motors CEO Mary Barra has a base salary of $1.6 million -- and with incentives and stock could earn up to $4.4 million her first year.
New General Motors CEO Mary Barra has a base salary of $1.6 million -- and with incentives and stock could earn up to $4.4 million her first year.TANNEN MAURY / EPA

Countless surveys have found that women in the workforce tend to make less money than their male counterparts, and that’s often true at even the highest levels — including the new chief executive officer at General Motors.

GM has revealed that its new CEO Mary Barra stands to earn as much as $4.4 million in her first year on the job. That’s if she collects on the full $2.8 million that’s set aside as part of a short-term incentive plan. (She also could collect a potential $1 million in a new stock offering.) But Barra’s base salary is $1.6 million — a full $100,000 less than outgoing CEO Dan Akerson earned in 2012.

And Akerson will continue to out-earn Barra, at least for the time being. Though he retired last week — months ahead of the original plan due to his wife’s serious bout with cancer — the former Navy pilot will continue to earn $1.7 million annually as a consultant to the automaker, according to GM documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Barra’s new job places her at 26th on the list of the best paid automotive “Captains of Industry,” according to research by trade publication Automotive News, behind Thomas Lynch, CEO of supplier TE Connectivity, which generated barely 8 percent of GM’s total revenues in 2013. Lynch took home $4.7 million.

Even including the potential $1 million in stock the GM board could award Barra, she only moves up to 24th on the automotive CEO list, behind the $5.7 million paid to engine maker Cummins’ chief executive Thomas Linebarger.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally topped the chart, with a total compensation package of $68.4 million for 2012, the latest year for which data was available.

Had Barra been promoted last year, she might have made significantly less money. Until last month, General Motors was subject to significant restraints on the pay it could award its top executives, part of the terms of the federal bailout that helped the automaker pull through its 2009 bankruptcy. The government sold off its last shares of GM stock in December, and the pay cap was lifted.

Barra, 52, has not commented on the pay gap.

She has been working for the automaker since she started an internship at the old Pontiac Assembly Plant at 18, while studying at the General Motors Institute, now known as the Kettering Institute. She is the first female CEO of any major automotive company.

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