Today in This Had to Happen news, General Motors has responded to a flurry of stories reporting that its new CEO Mary Barra (the first woman to hold that position) would earn “48%” as much as the company’s previous chief by releasing more details of her compensation package two months early.
Previous totals only included Barra’s base salary and stock options, not potential performance-based bonus earnings. GM initially planned to wait until April’s annual shareholder meeting to release the full total but decided to go ahead with it yesterday thanks to a lesson learned in PR 101: correct misinformation ASAP. Barra’s new potential earnings ($14.4 million) are much more impressive than the previous third-party estimate ($4.4) because one digit makes a big difference.
This problem came about because the nuances of CEO pay packages are lost on many readers (not because they’re dumb but because this is fairly mundane stuff). And of course those “New Female CEO Makes Less Than Half of Former Male CEO’s Salary” headlines were just too tempting to turn down.
So, while it’s kind of a shame this had to happen, it’s not terribly surprising in our rush-to-judgement age—and GM had to have seen it coming. It’s also encouraging, in a way, to see the company push back against knee-jerk criticism with numbers.
Other major corporations take note.