Female Pharmacist are the second highest paid.
More than ever women are staking their claim to the best and highest-paying jobs on the market. In 1964, 19 million women were employed in the US. Today they total 65 million, fanning out across industries and increasingly pursuing higher education. The amount of working women who have attended college leapt 200% since 1970, and the undergraduate class of 2011 will be 57% female.
Yet as far as women have come, they still earn an average of 81.2% as much as men and remain concentrated in lower-end jobs, such as administrative assistants, cashiers and retail workers. This will be the third year in a row that ForbesWoman runs its annually updated list of the best-paying jobs for women to spotlight the occupations where women can–and do–earn the most. Using data on the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in 2010, collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we discovered that tech and health care is where the money’s at.
At No. 1, female physicians and surgeons topped the list. These women earned a median of $1,618 per week, or about $84,000 a year, more than any other profession tracked by the BLS. In just a year, women’s earnings increased by $400 a week, causing the job to jump up the list from the No. 6 spot last year. Male doctors continue to earn more than female doctors, but the pay gap has narrowed each year; it’s now at 29% versus 41% two years ago.
“We may be witnessing an aging factor,” speculates behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert, lead scientist at compensation website GetRaised. “The highest paid doctors are the oldest doctors. With more women in the field, they may be aging up and earning more.”
Interestingly, the second best-paying job for women is pharmacist. Female pharmacists make a median of $1,605 per week or about $83,500 annually, nearly as much as physicians and surgeons and more than chief executives, which came in at No. 3 on our list. Women comprise 48% of the pharmacy profession and earn 83% as much as male pharmacists. Meanwhile, only 26% of CEOs are women, and they earn just 72% as much as male peers.
Francine Blau, a professor of labor economics at Cornell University, believes the pay gap may be higher among doctors and chief executives due to factors like specialty type, self-employment, industry and firm size. Moreover, these occupations feature a wider range of pay. If men earn more of the outlying, mega salaries, it could bring the male median up. (There are only 11 female CEOs in America’s largest 500 companies, including Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld and Yahoo‘s Carol Bartz.) Conversely, “in pharmacy there’s not as much scope,” says Blau. “There’s a clearer range of salaries available.”
Discrimination may factor in as well. “Not only are women less likely to make it to those upper ranges [of a profession] because of promotion gaps,” says Wallaert, “when they do get there they are less likely to be paid fairly.”
Times may be changing, however. Three of the top 10 highest-paying jobs for women were in technology fields, which feature some of the narrowest gender pay gaps. Female computer software engineers (No. 5), who earn a median of $75,000 annually, and computer programmers (No. 9) comprise just 20% of their respective occupations but earn more than 90% as much as their male counterparts. Similarly, women computer and information systems managers (No. 6) make 82% as much as men.
“Engineers are generally employed by younger tech companies with less entrenched male-dominated cultures,” says Wallaert, pointing to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg as a female leader in the field. “Women need to embrace tech. It’s a growing industry, and gender doesn’t apply.”
Technical occupations may be particularly promising for women because they are high-paying and require clear, objective qualifications. “You can program or not,” says Blau.
While there are very few jobs where women earn more than men (food servers, bill collectors and stock clerks), the data shows that the greater percentage of women in a field, the smaller the gender wage gap. This year, female-dominated jobs that also ranked as best-paid include physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and human resources managers.
“Dating back to the 1970s, women have been moving into relatively higher paying jobs that were traditionally male,” says Blau. “It’s been a very positive development. Over all, the gender pay gap is narrowing.”
See the list: Top 10 Best-Paying Jobs For Women In 2011