Best and Worst Jobs for Women: Where to Watch Out for the Wage Gap
A woman is poised to become a major party's nominee for president for the first time in U.S. history. Yet women in this country still earn 79 to 83 cents on average (depending on the study) for every dollar earned by men. This wage gap, calculated by comparing median full-time pay as collected by the Census Bureau, does not account for factors such as paid leave, overtime, occupation, education, experience, or an employee's inclination to negotiate pay -- leaving it open to debate. A "Fact Checker" article in The Washington Post calling the claim "misleading" still concludes a pay gap exists, although it's smaller than some say. And when studies drill down into specific occupations, women make less than men doing the same job.
Here are the five sectors with the largest wage gaps and the five with the smallest, based on the latest Census survey data (from 2014).
Women in legal services make only 56.7 percent of men's earnings in the field. That number may be skewed due a variety of factors (such as where lawyers practice and the larger number of women in lower-paying supporting roles, such as paralegal and legal assistant), but the overall percentage ranks the legal field worst on the pay gap scale for women.
Sales associates, cashiers, customer support staff, and floor managers serve as liaisons between products and customers. Women working in this sector deal with frantic holiday shopping, aggravated clients -- and the second-largest pay gap. They make only 67.8 percent of men's earnings in the field.
Men and women serve and protect their communities, whether from fires, natural disasters, or crime. Data may be skewed in this field because there are far fewer females in law enforcement and other protective services, but women in this sector earn only 69.6 percent of the average income for men.
Bakers, technicians, woodcutters, and painters are only a small sample of the workers in the still large manufacturing industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of production jobs will decrease steadily through 2024 as more roles are taken over by computers. If that's not a sign to stay away, consider that women in production earned only 70.6 percent of men's pay in 2014.
Thousands of people make their living by lending a helping hand, from personal care aides to fitness trainers to child-care workers. The number of jobs available is projected to increase, but keep in mind that in 2014, women in this sector pocketed only 75 percent of men's earnings.
There is a relatively low number of women in the installation, maintenance, and repair sector, which includes roles such as technicians and mechanics for aircraft, automobiles, medical equipment, wind turbines, and heavy machinery. The small sample size may have skewed median wages, but women took home 88 percent of men's earnings in 2014, one of the highest percentages in any field.
Counselors, health educators, therapists, and social workers shoulder intense emotional burdens on behalf of their patients and communities. So at least women working in community and social services banked 88.2 percent of men's pay in 2014. The number of jobs in this area is predicted to increase 10 percent by 2024, the BLS predicts.
Computers may take over the world one day, but it'll be a while before they are able to prepare and serve a beautiful meal. The food sector is expected to grow 7 percent through 2024. In addition to some job security, related occupations -- chefs, servers, bartenders, and food prep staff -- have a small wage gap. Women in food preparation and serving made 90.5 percent as much as men in 2014.
Assistants, dispatchers, tellers, and clerks help make the world go 'round, and women dominate these roles. So perhaps it's no surprise that office and administrative support occupations offer a smaller wage gap for women, who earned 90.9 percent of men's wages in 2014.
Highly technical occupations with specific skill sets take the cake for the smallest wage gap. Women working as carpenters, electricians, roofers, plumbers, and related roles earn 91.3 percent of their male counterparts' wages, the highest percentage in the working world. But again, this male-dominated industry (0.3 percent of workers are female, according to the BLS) results in a much smaller sample of women compared with other fields, likely skewing the results.