The Jobs With The Biggest (and Smallest) Gender Pay Gaps
5:30 pm, February 13th | by Colette McIntyre
As working women out in the world, dressed in our Melanie Griffith finest, we know the sad, unequal state of affairs: women consistently earn less than men. Despite performing the same work and having similar credentials, women make about 70 cents to every dollar earned by men. We can recite these statistics in our sleep. Now, thanks to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we also know where the pay gaps are widest, and the results may surprise you in just how unsurprising they really are.
The data, published by NPR’s Planet Money, compares women’s earnings to their male counterparts’ across hundreds of jobs, basing the comparisons on full-time workers only. According to the findings, the five jobs with the biggest income disparity are insurance sales agents, where women’s earnings are just 62.5 percent of men’s, retail sales (64.3%), sales and related workers (65.6%), real estate brokers and agents (66.0%), and personal finance advisors (66.3%). The five careers where the wage gap is the smallest include health technicians, counselors, pharmacists, buyers for wholesale and retail, and officer clerks. Health technicians and counselors are the only major occupations where the median female salary exceeds the amount paid to men, earning 3.7 percent and 2.6 percent more than their male colleagues.
A detail worth noting: the jobs with closer income parity pay less, on average, than those with the largest wage disparities. The average weekly pay is $1,087 for jobs where the gap is biggest, and $773 for jobs where the gap is smallest.
So, while female cafeteria workers are making just 2.1 percent less than their male colleagues, female surgeons and stock brokers experience a far greater wage gap. This seems to suggest that longstanding gender biases are getting in the way of pay equality. Lower-paid specialities and care work are deemed acceptable for women so it makes sense that those professions claim the smallest wage gaps. High-paying finance and medical careers require logical thinking and aggressiveness, traits that society codes as masculine, so women face increased discrimination in these fields. Also, female professionals suffer whether or not they take maternity leave: businesses often operate on the assumption that a woman will take time off to care for children — because that’s what women are supposed to do — and lower her wages accordingly. Because we still operate in a culture that implicitly associates high-education sectors like finance and law with men and “male characteristics”, it is harder for women to achieve professional equality in these fields.
In the World Economic Forum’s 2012 ranking of the world’s twenty best countries for women, the United States was 22nd, a new low for a country that ranked at 17 in 2011 and 19 in 2010. Our large salary gap, low relative numbers of women in the work force, and scarcity of women in leadership positions — only 3.2 percent of major CEOS are women — placed us below most of Europe, Nicaragua, South Africa, and the Philippines. If that doesn’t outrage you, you’re not paying attention.
[Photo via Shutterstock]