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Even with more women settling into the role of family breadwinner, the gender pay gap only rarely settles in their favor.
Today, 23 percent of women earn more than their husbands, up from 4 percent who did in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center study released this week. But that's not necessarily an indication that women are earning more. Comparing full-time, year-round workers, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, said Dana Britton, director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. In 1960, the gap was about 61 cents to the dollar.
"Traditionally, in couples where women out-earn men, it's been temporary," she said.
Still, critics say the gap may not be quite so wide. Broadly, there tend to be more men in high-paying fields like technology, and more women in lower-paid ones such as education, creating much of the imbalance, said management consultant Steve Tobak, managing partner for Invisor Consulting in California.
Plus, government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau tend to compare the wages of all women with a given job title against all men with a given job title, regardless of differences in geographic location, education or years of experience.
With a more apples-to-apples comparison controlling for such factors, "the gap all but disappears," said Katie Bardaro, lead economist for salary data site PayScale.com.
For example, the typical female firefighter makes 1.6 percent less than her male counterpart, rather than the steeper 19 percent difference comparing median pay. Smaller pay gaps may be more explainable as men being more willing to negotiate, or women losing out on pay advances when leaving the workforce to have children, Tobak said.
While it's smart for women to consider which fields pay well in general when choosing a career, they shouldn't rush to switch based on a perceived gender disparity in earnings, Britton said. Winning jobs shift quickly. For example, based on BLS data from 2009, female bakers earned 4 percent more than male bakers. In 2012, the men outearned the women by more than 11 percent.
But if you do want to follow the money, these 12 jobs are among those where women are the top earners.
By Kelli B. Grant, CNBC.com
Posted 30 May 2013