The Securities and Exchange Commission took steps Wednesday to help investors measure executive pay against the financial performance in stocks.

Mutual funds, real estate investment trusts, emerging growth companies and foreign companies are exempt.

The proposal was sent out for public comment on a party-line vote with all three Democratic commissioners for and both Republicans against.

In one step to make pay versus performance easier to determine for investors, the SEC voted to propose to require companies to show the total compensation for chief executive officers by adding pension and equity awards to the pay currently revealed in the annual proxy statements.

Compensation for other executives listed in the summary compensation tables in proxies would have to be the average amounts actually paid to the executives.

To be better able to compare executive pay with corporate results, the SEC will now mandate publicly held firms to show in the proxies annual total shareholder return (stock price plus dividends) and to compare the performance against similar companies.

The proxy statements would be required to show the pay and performance figures for the last five fiscal years except for smaller companies with stock market value of under $75 million (basically market cap minus the value of their affiliates). Smaller companies would have to reveal the numbers for three years.

SEC Chairman Mary Jo White said the disclosures could help investors in deciding which director candidates to vote for or against and how to determine how to vote on advisory ballots on executive compensation.

The SEC was required to develop the rules by the Dodd-Frank Act.