Logo courtesy of Anheuser-Busch
Logo courtesy of Anheuser-Busch

St. Louis brewer Anheuser-Busch is now facing a lawsuit for alleged gender discrimination brought by Francine Katz, who was the company’s vice president of communications and consumer affairs until she resigned in 2008.

In fact, Katz was the company’s highest ranking female executive, but claims to have been underpaid compared to her male predecessor and other top male executives at the company.

“This was a company run by men who were unaccustomed with working with women at high levels,” Mary Anne Sedey, who is representing Katz, told the jury in opening arguments of the trial.

Katz started as a corporate lawyer and was later named to the company’s strategy committee. She earned more than $1 million a year, including salary, stock options and bonuses. But her predecessor, John Jacob, a former National Urban League president, allegedly earned four times that amount in his final year at the job.

“Make no mistake about it. Francine Katz earned a lot of money at Anheuser-Busch,” Sedey was quoted by The Associated Press. “But like so many women in this country, Francine Katz was significantly underpaid.”

During the trial, Katz testified she had represented the beer industry before the U.S. Congress. But she felt excluded from company events involving other top male executives.

Katz is seeking $9.4 million and punitive damages.

Lawyers representing Anheuser-Busch argued Katz’s salary, benefits and bonuses are similar to peers at Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble. “Francine Katz was paid based on her job, not her gender,” Jim Bennett, who represents the company, was quoted by The AP. “There was a fair process used, a rigorous process used.”

On the other hand, Think Progress said studies show that highest-paid women executives earn 18 percent less than their male peers.

Yet the future outlook may be better for women. By 2040, women will make up about a third of new CEO appointments, a new study from Strategy&, the consulting firm that used to be known as Booz & Co., said. But as of now, only 3 percent of incoming CEOs in 2013 were women, InsideCounsel reported. The 3 percent figure is a 1.3 percentage point drop from 2012.

Also, in a recent report, InsideCounsel pointed out that Claudia Zeisberger, academic director of Insead’s Global Private Equity Initiative, predicts there will be a major shift with women increasingly being among the candidates who fulfill requirements for job vacancies. She calls it an “explosion” of talent.

As for now, the White House Council on Economic Advisers recently reported that on average, full-time women employees earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Further reading:

Number of women CEOs remains low, but long-term outlook will improve

Women may dominate the compliance officer field, but it should lead to other corporate opportunities

Law firms, in-house counsel offices will likely see talent explosion among female applicants