There's one place at the pinnacle of Corporate America where the gender pay gap doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. The highest paid executive at Apple in 2015, according to a table in a recent company filing, wasn't CEO Tim Cook. It was Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry Group and now Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores.
Ahrendts' compensation last year was valued at $25.8 million, just higher than chief financial officer Luca Maestri, whose pay was valued at $25.4 million. Three other peers -- Eddy Cue, Dan Riccio and Bruce Sewell -- each logged just more than $25 million. CEO Tim Cook's 2015 pay, meanwhile, was valued at $10.3 million.
The reason is simple: Apple paid more than a pretty penny to bring on the former chief of the British luxury brand. In 2015, that included paying relocation expenses and associated taxes on those expenses, which led to her edging out the other men on her team. In 2014, meanwhile, it granted her equity to make up for what she was leaving behind at Burberry, as well as a sign-on grant and bonus, lifting the value of her pay in 2014 to a whopping $73.4 million. That made her not only the highest-paid Apple executive in that year's filing, but the highest-paid female executive overall on some lists.
But such numbers in the proxy's "summary compensation table" each year don't tell the whole story. Those numbers reflect the cash compensation and the value of the equity grants an executive is awarded in a given year, rather than an actual picture of what they might bring home. Stock awards like the ones Ahrendts received "vest" over a period of several years, meaning she'll have to stick around to access them and in some cases, meet certain performance targets.
In addition, the data may make it look like Tim Cook was paid $15 million less than his colleagues last year. But keep in mind that Cook was awarded a grant when he was appointed CEO in 2011 that was valued at $376 million, which he'll receive in chunks over 10 years. "Accordingly," the company noted back in 2011, it "should be viewed as compensation over the 10-year vesting period and not solely as compensation for 2011."
Still, it's interesting to see how similarly -- at least in executive pay terms, where a hundred thousand or so is a rounding error -- Apple paid Cook's top deputies this year. In its proxy, Apple says "internal equity" is a guiding principle of its pay strategy, and that it believes a "team-based approach" to paying its top executives leads to the kind of stability that "is achieved by generally awarding the same base salary, annual cash incentive, and long-term equity awards to each of our executive officers." It's also a reminder of the power that making compensation public can have when it comes to setting pay.