CIO salary shocker: Canadian women out-earning men!

A small survey of Canadian CIOs indicates women in the role are earning at least as much – and, on average, more – than their male counterparts.

The CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) this week released the results of a research study among its members which showed an average base salary of $155,000. Among the 18 per cent of respondents who were women, however, the average base salary was $156,000. When bonuses were factored in, women still came out ahead, at $189,000 on average compared to $186,000 for men.

Although the results came from less than 100 respondents, the fact that even a handful of female CIOs are getting this level of compensation is a healthy sign, according to Andrew Dillane, CIOCAN’s national president.

“I think the most important point to take away is that at things are looking at they’re at least on par. At least we’re not seeing traditional trends of men outpacing women from an executive salary perspective,” he said.

Dillane, who is also group CIO with staffing firm Randstad Canada, said while there continues to be a dearth of women in IT jobs, they may find fewer barriers or glass ceilings to break through if they choose the CIO path.

“The whole CIO role is a fairly new thing,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily have any ties to the past or old boy’s clubs.”

A full 86 per cent of respondents said they were either satisfied, more than satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. Of those who were unsatisfied, they worked for larger firms and 66 per cent made less than the average salary, according to the research.

Most CIOs said they reported into the president, while about a quarter report into the CIO. However those that reported into a senior vice-president tended to make more money. The latter could make on average $275,000, for example, while those who report into the CEO tend to make $188,000.

CIOCAN’s sample size isn’t large, but more than half work for large enterprises of 1,000 employees, and 33 per cent have at least 100 IT staff to manage. Those in mining and financial services tended to make the greatest amounts: $285,000 and $247,000, respectively.

Early results from IT World Canada’s 2009 Salary Survey also suggests women keeping pace with men. Female senior IT executives were making more than $132,000 compared to $124,000 for men.

In some cases, Canadian CIO salaries dwarf that of U.S. CIOs. Last month Equilar, a firm which researches executive compensation, said the top 5 CIOs took home a base salary of US$500,000 to US$821,000 in 2008. That contrasts sharply with the US$142,914 that was reported by consulting firm Janco Associates in January of this year.

“One thing that’s interesting is the CIO salaries in Canada seem to be less than in the States,” Dillane admitted. “Part of it could be explained by the fact that a lot of organizations that are global are headquartered in the States. The international scope may be a factor.”

While the CIOCAN survey did not look specifically at the impact of the worldwide recession, Dillane said he believed that alternate forms of compensation like flex hours and more work-life balance perks may not be available to many CIOs.

“From a leadership perspective, CIOs are becoming more in the day-to-day than ever right now,” he said. “Because of what’s happening in the economy, they really need to be there and if necessary to step back and rethink some things.”

The highest-paid CIOs in Canada come primarily from Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, according to the survey results.