Women took a larger salary cut than men during the pandemic.
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Women running startups took a bigger pay cut during the pandemic than men

Protocol Pipeline

Hello and welcome to Pipeline. We're taking next week off to observe the Fourth of July. This week: what tech founders own when they exit, Peter Thiel's Roth IRA, and how the startup CEO pay gap widened during the pandemic.

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Biz on Biz

Female startup CEOs took a 30% pay cut during COVID-19. The same didn't happen for men.

When the pandemic hit last spring, startup CEOs took a hard look at their finances and started crunching the numbers on how to survive a potential doomsday scenario. Healy Jones ended up fielding a lot of the calls as VP of financial planning and analysis at Kruze Consulting, an accounting firm that works with hundreds of venture-backed startups.

In a crisis, cash flow is king. And cutting executive salaries sends a good message to employees and investors.

  • "There were a lot of investors who were saying you have to cut expenses now," Jones said. "So we were spending a lot of time on the phone with our founders, helping them figure out how they might adjust their budgets to preserve cash flow because no one knew what's happening."
  • Personnel costs were an easy place to start, which is why many companies saw layoffs and CEOs took pay cuts to help extend their company's runway.

The pay cuts disproportionately impacted female CEOs, who took a large salary hit during the pandemic, according to data analyzed by Kruze, which tracks startup CEO salaries over the years. The firm looked at anonymized CEO salary data for over 250 venture-backed startups, including more than 40 female-run companies.

  • Female CEOs saw a nearly 30% dip in their average salaries in April. It took months for the numbers to crawl back, the data showed.
  • The average salary for male CEOs didn't really see a hit at all. The male CEOs who did take a salary cut were washed out by the male CEOs who took raises at the time, something that often happens in conjunction with a new funding round as companies raced to raise cash.
  • "We knew that there was this trend of a lot of CEOs trying to cut their own pay to help the company, but we didn't realize that it had fallen disproportionately on women," Jones told me. "That was a shock."

Salary levels haven't returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.

  • There was a $5,000 pay gap between the average male and female CEO salary at the start of 2020, according to Kruze's data. In 2021, that widened to $16,000.
  • It's part of a larger trend of the pandemic disproportionately affecting women. Some estimates calculate that women lost $800 billion in income globally during the pandemic.

"Not to throw VCs under the bus…" but Jones thinks this is something venture capitalists have direct control over, and the power to effect change.

  • "VCs should go and when they walk into their next board meeting where they've funded a female CEO, they ought to just take a quick look to make sure the person is being compensated as they are compensating their male CEOs," Jones said.
  • The big firms should also run their own salary data reports for their portfolio companies, and correct any disparities where salaries may remain depressed from the earlier pandemic cuts, particularly looking at female CEOs, he said.

The pay gap may be wider — but it's something venture capitalists can fix now if they just run the numbers for their own companies instead of waiting for the next board meeting or financial planning session.


Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

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Inside Track

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Need to Know

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Five Questions With...

A Leading Investor from a Well-Known Firm

Really, the only interview you need to read with a leading venture capitalist this week is this satirical interview by TechCrunch's Alex Wilhelm. I'm still laughing about it.


Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

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