The gender wage gap continues to be a controversial topic, with some analysts arguing that the research showing a discrepancy between men and women’s wages is faulty and misguided.
Researchers who continue to believe that men are given an unfair advantage in the work force, however, continue to publish their findings despite criticisms of their research.
As the Deseret News reported last March, the Institute for Women's Policy Research released a study that says the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings had decreased from 82.2 percent in 2011 to 80.9 percent in 2012.
In other words, the gap widened in 2012.
It has also been well-documented that women are entering the work force in increasing numbers. The Deseret News reported in June that women are now the primary breadwinners in roughly 40 percent of American families, a number that has quadrupled since the 1960s.
So as more women enter the workplace, it may be important for them to consider which industries offer the fairest wages for their work.
For this reason, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has re-promoted its research, which was first compiled in 2009, on which industries have the smallest gender wage gap.
A woman in the information industry, which includes careers in telecommunications and publishing, makes an average of 75.8 percent of every dollar a man in a similar position earns. There were, at the time the Bureau of Labor Statistics published this research, 1,015,000 women in this industry. The median pay for a woman who chooses this career path is $756 per week.
With 5,268,000 women working in wholesale and retail trade, this industry ranks second for the amount of women employed. As the BLS reports, however, it maintains a relatively large gap between what men and women are paid. A woman in this industry receives 76.0 percent of a man’s salary. That’s roughly 4 percent less than the national average of 80.2 percent.
The average woman who works in wholesale and retail trade earns $523 per week.
Women are entering the business world in increasing numbers, and in the past two decades have even largely overtaken some positions within the professional work force. Forbes reported in 2011 that 66.8 percent of all human resources managers were female, and female meeting and convention planners now make up 83.3 percent of that work force.
The BLS recorded in 2009 that the average woman working in this field receives 76.6 percent of what a man earns. With 4,080,000 women considered in this category, the average salary sits at $744 per week.
Education and health services ranks highest when it comes to the number of women employed. There were 17,133,000 women working in health or education related jobs in 2009. The next highest industry in that category is wholesale and retail trade, which only employs roughly 5,268,000 women.
Even with its high ratio of female workers — women make up roughly 82 percent of elementary and middle school teachers alone — women still earn only 77 percent of a man’s salary in this industry.
The second highest paying industry on the list, with an average of $783 per week, is for women who take positions in public administration. They typically earn 78.5 percent of a male counterpart’s salary.
The BLS reports that 2,834,000 women in the U.S. hold positions in public administration.
The transportation and utilities workers industry pays women an average of 78.6 percent of a man’s salary. The BLS has recorded that 1,242,000 women are employed in either transportation or utilities focused jobs. The average earnings of a woman who takes this career path is $685 per week.
This category might be fourth in the BLS’ ranking based on gender pay differences, but it actually takes the number one slot for actual earnings.
The average woman in the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction industry makes $873 per week, making $79.9 for every $100 a man makes. That’s almost $100 a week more than the second-highest earning industry on this list: public administration. Apparently, many women have taken notice of the high paychecks. As of 2010, 4.6 percent of the industry’s workers were women.
The leisure and hospitality industry, which according to the BLS includes jobs ranging from restaurant workers to those in the entertainment business, typically pays women 83.5 percent of a man’s salary. There are currently 3,027,000 women employed in this industry, and the average weekly earnings comes to $421, the second lowest on the list.
Even though agriculture and other such industries rank high on the BLS report for their low gender payment discrepancy, they also happen to be the career path that pay the least on average.
While women earn 84.6 percent of a comparable man’s salary, the average earnings per week comes out to $413, which makes it not only the second lowest in pay gap, but also the lowest in weekly earnings.
According to the BLS, female construction workers receive an average of 92.2 percent the salary of their male counterparts. The fact that the construction industry provides the highest earnings for women compared to men is likely due to the strong influence of unions.
The slow growth of women in the industry — today they make up less than 3 percent of the industry's workers, compared to female physicians who make up 37 percent of their industry — is likely attributed to ongoing problems with gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration reported in 1999 that 88 percent of female construction workers reported they had been sexually harassed at work.
Even though it provides the smallest pay gap, construction is not the highest paying profession on the list. The BLS reports that while the average female construction worker makes $696 per week, women in the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction professions make $837 per week.
As of 2009, there were 568,000 women employed in the construction industry.