By Peter Schroeder - 05/27/14 11:40 AM EDT
Paychecks for top executives are reaching new highs, as the median pay for a CEO exceeded $10 million for the first time in 2013.
A new report from The Associated Press found that the head of an average large public company brought home $10.5 million, a raise of 8.8 percent from 2012 levels. CEO pay has climbed four straight years, and top executives now make 50 percent more than they did in 2009.
The report attributes much of the climb to the record levels of the stock market. As company boards have shifted to more stock options as a way to compensate CEOs, executives have reaped the benefits as Wall Street has surged to all-time highs.
The news comes as economic inequality has become a central plank of Democrats’ messaging ahead of the midterm elections. Congressional Democrats, along with President Obama, have repeatedly pushed for policies they say would spread economic growth more evenly, such as an increase in the minimum wage.
Senate Democrats have also launched what they’re calling the “Fair Shot Agenda,” an election-year push on populist policies. Democrats have pushed for votes on measures including a minimum-wage hike and paycheck fairness, and are currently gearing up a campaign to pass legislation that would help borrowers lower their student loan bills.
The CEO pay boost of 8.8 percent in the last year is several times the average 1.3 percent pay hike American workers received.
While women continue to lag behind men when it comes to paychecks, females in top executive positions actually make more on average than male counterparts. Female CEOs had a median pay package of $11.7 million, compared to $10.5 million for males. However, a factor in that number is that women make up a slim fraction of all top executives, with just 12 of them compared to 325 male counterparts.
The highest-paid CEO in the country in 2013 was Anthony Petrello, who heads the oilfield-services company Nabors Industries. He rocketed to the top of the list because the company’s board renegotiated his contract. Petrello received a large cash boost as part of the process, even though it came about after shareholder surveys showed they were unhappy with how the company paid top brass.