Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, intended to raise awareness of the fact that women still earn less than their male counterparts. That's 22¢ to the dollar less on average, in case you haven't been paying attention.
This date was not chosen randomly: Equal Pay Day is purposely held in April to illustrate the fact that it takes four months into the year for the average woman to catch up to the average man's earnings from the last year. And it's on a Tuesday to show how long into the week it takes to match a man's previous-week earnings.
Of course, in some fields, getting up to par is quicker than others.
The Census bureau tracks earnings by gender for more than 500 occupational categories; the table below shows 25 fields where, based on 2013 data, the difference in what she makes and what he makes is the smallest. (You can find out what each of these fields entails by typing in the category listed at O*Net Online, and find your own field's pay differential via this Census table.)
As you'll see, there are nine fields where the average woman actually outearns her male counterpart, though the margins of error on these are high enough as to possibly undo the findings. Also worth noting: Half of the professions in the top 25 are made up of a majority of women, vs. only six of the bottom 25.
Some have argued that if women simply went into higher paying fields they could eliminate a wage discrepancy, but the data argue against that. After all, physicians and surgeons—who take home very healthy paychecks—suffer among the greatest pay discrepancies, with women in these fields making 69% of what men do.
Instead, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, author of Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women, attributes a higher salary differential to the fact that some fields disproportionately incentivize people to work long hours and certain hours. That punishes women who take time out from their careers and require some flexibility in their work lives to raise children.
In aggregate, earnings between men and women are not that different until women enter child-bearing years, Goldin says. "But in some occupations, there isn't a large penalty for time out of the workforce or shorter hours," she notes.
What often separates those fields, she says, is that another person with a similar title can take over to serve as a perfect substitute. It's easier for a woman to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up her kids if information systems or a standardization of product makes handing off her duties costless.
Goldin gives the example of a pharmacist (a profession in which women earn a high 93% of what men do). In that role, a computer system provides access to standard data about the customer, so that the customer needn't always see the same person.
Okay, good to know, but if your field doesn't allow this flexibility you likely won't be able to make changes overnight. Nor are you probably interested in changing industries now just to gain the greater equality offered by the jobs below.
And Goldin suggests that you might work toward getting the men in your company to work less. The less willing they are to put in long hours without phenomenally more money, she notes, the more likely companies will be to put in place systems that allow workers to be more interchangeable.
"Ironically, rather than women leaning in," she says, "it's about getting men to start leaning out."
|Occupational Category||% Women in Field||Median Earnings, Men||Median Earnings, Women||% Women's Earnings to Men's||% Margin of Error|
|1. Media producers and directors||37%||$62,368||$66,226||106.2||10.3|
|2. Cleaners of vehicles and equip.||14%||$23,605||$24,793||105.0||9.6|
|3. Wholesale and retail buyers||49%||$41,619||$42,990||103.3||5.9|
|4. Transportation security screeners||36%||$40,732||$41,751||102.5||4.4|
|5. Social and human service assistants||79%||$34,967||$35,766||102.3||11.6|
|6. Special education teachers||85%||$46,932||$47,378||101.0||3.5|
|7. Transportation, storage, and distrib. mgrs.||18%||$52,017||$52,259||100.5||5.5|
|10. Industrial truck/tractor operators||7%||$31,002||$30,981||99.9||2.9|
|11. Massage therapists||76%||$29,272||$29,240||99.9||11.1|
|12. Counter and rental clerks||47%||$27,449||$27,194||99.1||19.6|
|13. Biological scientists||48%||$57,653||$57,107||99.1||9.8|
|15. Musicians, singers, and related||20%||$42,988||$42,279||98.4||13.7|
|16. Misc. personal appearance workers||79%||$22,047||$21,632||98.1||4.0|
|17. Meeting and event planners||81%||$47,876||$46,973||98.1||12.7|
|18. Security/surveillance guards||22%||$30,546||$29,883||97.8||4.1|
|19. Computer network architects||8%||$96,549||$94,445||97.8||5.7|
|20. Social workers||80%||$42,821||$41,795||97.6||3.9|
|21. Computer occupations, all other||23%||$66,971||$65,329||97.5||5.0|
|22. Nonfarm animal caretakers||69%||$25,025||$24,401||97.5||9.4|
|23. Dietitians and nutritionists||88%||$49,001||$47,717||97.4||7.7|
|24. Postal service clerks||50%||$54,166||$52,574||97.1||1.5|
|25. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks||65%||$21,995||$21,329||97.0||4.8|
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