In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama made a plea for higher women’s wages. “You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” he said. “That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.”
So is there a place in the U.S. where women make the same as men? Are there cities where women’s wages are higher than others? For answers we turned to financial literacy site NerdWallet, which has sorted through figures from the 2012 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census (the latest data available). The annual dataset tracks the median earnings of men and women working full-time, year-round in more than 500 major metropolitan areas across the U.S. NerdWallet has crunched the numbers and helped us figure out which metro areas pay the most in raw numbers and as a percentage of men’s salaries.
At the top of the list: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, where women earn a median income of $56,000. That’s nearly triple the salary in the worst-paying city for women, Laredo, TX, where they make just $24,700.
With the surge in the tech industry, it’s not surprising that salaries are highest in a slice of Silicon Valley. In fact I wrote a story last week on the highest-paying cities for tech jobs and the Valley came out on top as it always does in that sector. But the gender disparity there is striking, according to the Census numbers. Women earn just 74% of what men make.
There are several explanations, as explored in a smart post last week by the non-partisan site Politifact, which parsed President Obama’s 77% remark in the State of the Union: Difference in jobs held, difference in college degrees earned and time off for parenting. Although all of this is in flux, women tend to go into lower-paying fields like receptionists, nurses and teachers while men gravitate to jobs like truck drivers, managers and software engineers. That said, Politifact also notes that it can be most meaningful to look at the gender pay gap in specific professions. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research calculated pay parity for the top 20 occupations for women and found gaps of varying sizes in every profession but one (bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks). Women nurses make 96 cents for every dollar men earn. But female financial advisers make only 66 cents.
One more piece of information to chew on: Last year I wrote about a survey by tech jobs site Dice that measured men’s and women’s pay in the technology sector. When it controlled for education and experience, Dice found there was also noevidence of a gender pay gap, when it controlled for education and experience. But Dice did find that women don’t take on the same jobs as men, and that overall, their education and experience levels are lower.
With all of that said, there is still a bottom line: Women earn more in some parts of the country than in others. To a large extent our list of the 10 top-paying cities for women reflects the cost of living in those spots. Seven of the cities are in the Northeast and two are in the pricey Bay Area. The place where women earn closest to what men earn: San Francisco. Women’s salaries there are 84% of men’s.