The Careers With the Worst — and Best — Pay Gaps for Women
Men still out-earn women across industries, and the places reaching near-parity aren't what you'd think.
When it comes to paying women equally to men for their work, most industries still have a long way to go. We know that progress has been slow since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 across sectors and that for women of color, the gap in pay compared to white men is even larger than that of white women’s.
As we mark Equal Pay Day on April 2 this year, many are looking to the Paycheck Fairness Act (which bars employers from asking for previous salary information) to help shrink the gender wage gap. But the data is not particularly encouraging. While women are being hired in greater numbers for historically male-dominated professions — such as financial managers and surgeons — women across those industries aren’t reaching the high earning power of their male peers.
In some areas, we are seeing pay equalize between men and women, but it still holds true that smaller wage gaps tend to exist in female-dominated, lower-wage work. So, if you're a woman in a traditionally female job — say, nursing — you stand a better chance of earning close to what your male peers do; if you're stepping into a traditionally male-dominated field (surgury, e.g.) the inverse is true.
Here, we take a look at the careers that tend to have the largest and smallest pay gaps between men and women.
Jobs With the Largest Gender Wage Gaps
The finance industry as a whole is one of the most egregious offenders when it comes to not paying women equally. Last year’s report from financial technology company SmartAsset found that, of 10 occupations with the largest pay gap between men and women, four are in the finance industry. In the lucrative career of financial advisor, women’s pay ratio is the smallest, with few female financial advisors reaching the earning power of their male counterparts. As financial advisors, women earn, on average, 55 percent of a man’s salary.
Financial Manager is ranked as the career with the second largest wage disparity, with women’s pay hovering at 65 percent of what men make. So women are entering the financial sector in greater numbers, but they aren’t being paid what men are. Forbes reports that while 46 percent of financial services employees are women, only 15 percent are represented at the executive level. Women who worked full-time in the areas of “securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents” fared lowest, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 2018, women in those specific roles pulled in 63.9 percent of men’s weekly median earnings.
Outside of the finance industry, female physicians and surgeons face the largest gender wage discrepancy. A recent American Association of University Women (AAUW) report found that female physicians and surgeons are paid 71 cents for every dollar men in the field make. That accounts for a 29 percent wage gap and falls 9 cents behind the “80 cents on the dollar” women statistically earn. The damage is significant. The gender pay gap in this field results in a loss of a whopping $500 billion a year for women working in these fields.
Retail sales supervisors (sometimes called “first line supervisors") typically oversee sales workers and inventory in the retail sector. While women make up 42 percent of this sector, men who hold these roles are out-earning women by nearly 30 percent. The median annual salary for men in this position is estimated at $46,332, while women’s median salary hovers at $33,000 — counting for a $13,000 annual pay discrepancy. Even more disturbing? The gender pay gap here appears to be widening. From 2017 to 2018, the weekly wage of male retail supervisors climbed 4 percent, while women saw only a 1.4 percent increase.
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Jobs With the Smallest Wage Gaps for Women
A recent study of 120 industries found that the only occupation where women are out-earning men is in the field of counseling. Other studies have found that, specifically, for academic counselors, there is almost no difference in base pay: Women earn $0.99 for every $1.00 men earn, according to Money.com.
Historically, the construction industry has been a male-dominated sector. The average annual pay of a construction worker in the U.S. is holding at $33,052, as more women are being drawn to the industry. Women in construction earn an average of 95.7 percent of what their male counterparts do, making it one of the jobs with the lowest gender-based wage gap in the U.S.
While female nurses make less than male nurses, even in an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by women, the gap is smaller than in other industries. Female registered nurses were found to earn over 90 percent of their male counterparts' wages, adding up to a little over $5,000 yearly gap on average, USA Today reports. But while that pay gap statistically seems small, men in nursing are are walking away with $150,000 more over their career lifetime.