Revealed: highest-earning woman executive in Britain

THE head of the private medical firm Bupa has become Britain's highest-earning woman executive.

Valerie Gooding, 54, was paid more than 1.4 million in salary and bonuses last year in her role as chief executive. That equates to 815 an hour.

She will receive a further 967,000 under an incentive plan and her pension pot grew from 2.7 million to 3.9 million, according to Bupa's annual report.

The mother of two teenage children, who started her career as a reservation agent with British Airways nearly 30 years ago, has been with Bupa for eight years and tops the female earning list after a year of record growth for the medical insurer.

Bryan Sanderson, Bupa's chairman, said: "I am delighted with what Val Gooding and the executive team have achieved over the last five years.

"Our pre-tax surplus has increased by an average of more than 30 per cent a year, while 88 per cent of our customers rate our service as 'very good' or 'excellent'."

Ms Gooding heads a growing band of female executives beginning to command sizeable remuneration packages.

Rose Marie Bravo, the chief executive of fashion retailer Burberry, who received a total of 2.1 million last year, comes closest to the Bupa chief executive in earnings.

Other top women earners include Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of publishing group Pearson, who was paid 1.5 million and Kate Swann, the chief executive of WH Smith, who earned 1.3 million.

A recent report claimed the number of very wealthy women in Britain was expected to grow dramatically, overtaking the number of rich men within 20 years.

There are now estimated to be up to 360,000 women in the UK who have a net wealth of 500,000 or more each.

The report, by independent portfolio manager and stockbroker Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management, said that the rise was due to record numbers of women climbing the executive ladder and becoming company directors.

However, most female workers are still lagging behind their male colleagues when it comes to salaries.

Vodaphone's chief executive, Arun Sarin, who was reported to be last year's top male earner, took home a pay and benefits package worth 4.9 million and share options worth up to 2.7 million. According to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), average hourly earnings for women working full-time are 18 per cent lower than for men working full-time. For women working part-time hourly earnings are 40 per cent lower.

John Wilks, the director of EOC Scotland, said: "It's always great to see individual women breaking through to the top of their professions, but the fact remains there is still an 18 per cent pay gap on average between men and women's salaries."

A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed women in Scotland earned an average of 371.40 per week last year - 85 per cent of male earnings.

The highest female earners in Britain live in London where they earned 510.30 per week last year - 84.4 per cent of male earnings.

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