Careers in business, tech, and healthcare continue to dominate Forbes’ annual ranking of the 20 Best-Paying Jobs For Women —but even roles in these powerhouse industries haven’t overcome the gender wage gap.
To find out which professions are paying women the most, Forbes analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracking the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers in 2012, broken down by gender and occupation. Each of these jobs pays median weekly wages of $1,161 or greater, resulting in median yearly earnings of $60,372 and above.
But women who hold the jobs on this list can expect to earn an average of about 17% less than their male counterparts, and still make up small minorities even among the fields that are paying them the most. And unlike other developed countries that have seen an overall upswing in women’s participation in the labor force over the past two decades, participation among women in the U.S. labor force has stalled, remaining almost flat since 1993, according to data from the White House.
John Budd, Prof. of Work and Organization at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, says that no matter what methods economists use to control the variables between men’s and women’s careers in order to compare their compensation, the results remain generally the same.
“This is a very longstanding issue. You can go back and find lots of studies that show on average women earn x per each dollar that men earn,” says Budd. “Economists would say, ‘But there are lots of differences we’re not controlling for.’ Research keeps getting more sophisticated in trying to be able to control those things, and the difference never disappears. They pay women well just like they pay men well—but they pay men even better.”
It won’t shock anyone to learn that chief executive tops the list of the best-paid positions for women—CEO positions tend to be lucrative no matter who holds them. But just 21% of CEOs are female, and those who do reach the top of the corporate ladder can expect to earn about 80% of male chief executives.
CEO isn’t the only organizational role paying women healthy wages. Management analysts, operations research analysts, purchasing managers, human resource managers, and general and operations managers all have salaries that land them among the top compensated.
The bulk of the jobs on this list come from the healthcare industry. Nurse practitioners, physicians and surgeons, physicians assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, medical and health services managers, speech-language pathologists, and psychologists all claim spots among the top paying jobs for women.
Vicki Shabo, Director of Work and Family Programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, says the same factors–non-linear careers, greater responsibilities at home, and outright discrimination–that maintain the wage gap in lower-earning professions are shaping the conversation around compensation in top-tier professions as well.
“The same internal and external influences are at play. Perhaps that female heart surgeon took a year off to have a child, or wants to work in a hospital that allows more flexibility, which leads to a lower paying job.”
Shabo says these influences are most likely at play in any occupation, though they may manifest differently across different fields.
Technology, dominant on so many industry rankings, accounts for many of the positions seen here as well. The roles of computer and information systems managers, software developers, computer systems analysts, and computer programmers all rank among the top 20 best-paying jobs for women. But true to the industry’s reputation, women account for a small percentage of tech professionals, occupying anywhere from about 20% to 36% of positions available with those titles.
The jobs paying women the least? Food prep workers, cashiers, laundry and dry cleaning workers, and various occupations in farming, fishing, forestry, and agriculture all pay women less than $400 per week. With the exception of food preparation–where women are compensated at an almost-equitable 97% of men’s earnings–each of these low-wage jobs pays female employees as much as 22% less than male.
It’s an issue, says Shabo, that isn’t confined to policy debates, and has real world consequences as young women consider entering the workforce.
“The wage gap is absolutely influencing people’s bread and butter decisions each and every day. The decision of what career to go into or how you’re going to perceive a career—this is completely real to people as they’re thinking about how they’re going to pursue their careers, what choices they’re going to make along the way, and how they’re going to advocate to get ahead.”