These careers have the biggest gender pay gaps, and here's what you can do about it

  • Working women lose out on $500 billion a year because of a persistent gender pay gap, the American Association of University Women says .
  • Financial managers, physicians and surgeons are among the professions with the most significant income disparities.
  • While women can’t negotiate around discrimination, pushing for a raise or better benefits can help.

A woman makes about 80 cents for every dollar a man does, on average, but that shortfall can vary widely depending on what you do.

"As much as we've kept the light on this issue, it's been essentially stagnant for two decades," said Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity for women.

Although women experience a persistent pay gap in nearly every occupation, the professions with the most significant income discrepancies are largely in the finance and medical industries, according to a new report by the AAUW.

Men's Earnings
Women's Earnings
Pay Ratio
Collective Gap for Women in Occupation
Financial managers $100,575 $65,237 65% $19,581,000,000
Physicians and surgeons $243,072 $171,880 71% $19,543,000,000
Accountants and auditors $77,320 $60,280 78% $17,293,000,000
Supervisors of retail sales workers $47,774 $35,217 74% $14,790,000,000
Registered nurses $71,590 $65,612 92% $12,509,000,000
Marketing and sales managers $100,288 $71,066 71% $11,221,000,000
Lawyers $140,270 $106,837 76% $10,704,000,000
Chief executives $148,867 $111,236 75% $10,043,000,000
Medical & health services managers $87,451 $67,129 77% $9,287,000,000
Education administrators $83,383 $64,989 78% $9,203,000,000
Source: American Association of University Women

The median income for male financial managers is $100,575, while female financial managers make $65,237, meaning women bring home 65 percent of what their male counterparts in this role do — and lose out on roughly $19.6 billion a year.

Physicians and surgeons have the second-largest wage discrepancy. Altogether, the gender pay gap results in a loss of $500 billion a year for working women, the AAUW found, based on 2017 Census data.

The shift in favor of women's earning power has been pronounced in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a separate analysis by Federal Reserve economists.

Still, even in computer programming jobs, women are paid 92 percent of what their male counterparts earn, the AAUW said.

The smallest gaps were in lower wage professions, such as food preparation and serving workers, where women earn 99 cents on the dollar, followed by writers and authors and pharmacists, where women earn 98 percent of what their male counterparts make.

The only occupation where women were paid more than men was among wholesale and retail buyers, the AAUW said.

"This isn't really a women's rights issue; this is about economic rights for families." -Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women

"This isn't really a women's rights issue; this is about economic rights for families," Churches said.

The gender pay gap exists in every part of the country with varying degrees of intensity. The largest gap in earnings is in Louisiana, where women are paid 69 cents on the dollar, and the gap is the smallest in California, where women earn 89 cents on the dollar.

The pay gap also varies by race and ethnicity, with massive pay gaps persisting for minorities, particularly African-American women, Native American and Latinas.

Much of the gap has been explained by criteria such as education and work experience — women are more likely to work part time and take time off over the course of their careers, often to care for children or other family members, according to the Pew Research Center.

But there are other factors that are more difficult to measure, such as gender discrimination, which may contribute to the ongoing wage discrepancy, Pew said.

While it's not a cure-all, Churches strongly advises women to negotiate their pay and push for better benefits.

"If you are not negotiating, then you are being held back," she said.

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