Despite improving since the 1960s, the gender pay gap is still quite wide in the United States. Moreover, the gap seems to have leveled off in recent years, remaining at a substantial level. In 2012, women's median earnings were just 78.3% those of men's median earnings. In dollar terms, women made $10,404 less than men that year.
Income disparity between men and women is not even across the country. Female workers in Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C., made nearly as much as men in the area in 2012. On the other hand, women in Provo-Orem, Utah, had median earnings of just 63.4% of what their male counterparts earned in 2012. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed America's 100 most populous metro areas to find the cities with the smallest and widest gender wage gap.
Several factors have an impact on gender pay gap, including women's participation in the workforce, the dominant industry, life choices, and labor laws, to name a few. Some industries pay men and women more equally than others. Most notably, in the construction sector, women's median earnings were nearly identical to men's in 2012. Still, across the U.S. women earned considerably less than men in a number of industries, including finance and insurance, where the median earnings for women were just 56% those of men.
Industries that paid women poorly tended to be less prominent in the cities with the narrowest wage gap. One such industry is manufacturing, where nationwide women had median earnings equal to just 73% those of men in 2012. In seven of the nation's 10 metro areas with the narrowest gap, manufacturing comprised 25% or less of total employment.
Similarly, jobs with the wider gender pay gaps were less prominent in cities with a narrow gap. According to Ariane Hegewisch, study director at the Institute For Women's Policy Research (IWPR), in many cases commission-based jobs, such as sales jobs, can have larger pay gaps. "A lot of it depends on whether you have access to fungible issues such as bonus, commission, end of year [compensation]," Hegewisch told 24/7 Wall St.
Culture may also play a role in determining women's pay in some parts of the country. Hegewisch gave Utah as an example. "The state has a very large wage gap but has very well educated women, and I'm sure that has something to do with the ideas of women and family and work," Hegewisch said. Indeed, both the Provo and Ogden, Utah, metro areas are among the 10 metro areas with the widest wage gap.
A small gender wage gap in a particular city does not necessarily mean women are paid well compared with women in other cities. For example, women working full-time in Bridgeport — where the gender gap was among the worst — earned a median of $51,649 in 2012, considerably more than in other cities. Female residents of the McAllen metro area, on the other hand, earned less than $30,000, but the area's gender wage gap was among the smallest nationwide.
Based on figures published by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2012, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan statistical areas with the largest and smallest differences in median earnings between men and women. We also considered median earnings for specific sectors, sub-sectors, and occupations, as well as median household income. Data on the percentage of women and men in specific sectors, as well as the contribution of such sectors to total employment in a metro area was also reviewed.
THESE ARE THE WORST-PAYING CITIES FOR WOMEN
10. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., metro area
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 72.6%
- Median earnings for men: $71,109 (2nd highest)
- Median earnings for women: $51,649 (4th highest)
Women living in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area were among the highest paid in the country in terms of median earnings. Despite this, they earned only about 73 cents for every dollar men in the area earned — among the widest gender income gaps in the country. The area is home to some of the top performing hedge funds in the world, and women in the area working in the finance and insurance sector had higher median earnings than women working in this sector among the 100 largest metro areas. Still, the pay gap between men and women working in the finance sector in the area was even worse, with women earning a little less than 53 cents for every dollar men earned.
9. Pittsburgh metro area
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 72.5%
- Median earnings for men: $50,825 (31st highest)
- Median earnings for women: $36,876 (46th lowest)
Pittsburgh was one of the best-paying cities in the transportation and utilities sector, which includes jobs in freight, storage, and power generation, among others. The sector paid a median salary of $55,725 in the area during 2012. Jobs in the sector, however, were predominantly held by men, who accounted for almost 78% of the sector's headcount. Salaries in the sector were similarly skewed towards men, whose median earnings exceeded $58,000, while women were paid barely $47,000 in 2012. Even in the educational services, health care and social assistance sector, where women accounted for 69% of all employees, pay was still higher for men. The median earnings for a woman in the sector were more than $10,000 lower than those of men in 2012.
8. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah, metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 71.5%
- Median earnings for men: $49,879 (41st highest)
- Median earnings for women: $35,687 (35th lowest)
Women's median earnings in the Ogden metro area were just $35,687 in 2012 , ranking 66th among the nation's 100 largest metro areas. By contrast, the median earnings for men in the area were nearly $50,000, ranking 41st. The area's real estate sector was the best paying of any major metro area, with median earnings of $63,963 in 2012. In this sector, too, women were paid far less than men. Women working in real estate earned slightly more than $55,000 in 2012, versus the $81,278 that men earned.
BEST-PAYING CITIES FOR WOMEN? There's a list for that, too -- at 24/7 Wall St.
7. St. Louis metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 71.2%
- Median earnings for men: $51,788 (23rd highest)
- Median earnings for women: $36,884 (47th lowest)
Women in the St. Louis area had median annual earnings of just $36,884 in 2012, in the bottom half among the 100 largest metro areas. Men in the area had median annual earnings of $51,788 that year, in the top 25% of all major metro areas. Even in the educational and health care sector, in which women outnumbered men roughly three to one, women still made only 74 cents for every dollar men made, which ranked in the bottom third in terms of pay gap. The gender gap was also quite large in management, business and financial jobs, where the median earnings for women were just 64% of the median earnings for men. This was one of the largest disparities in the nation that year.
6. Birmingham-Hoover, Ala., metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 71.0%
- Median earnings for men: $50,099 (38th highest)
- Median earnings for women: $35,593 (34th lowest)
Women living in the Birmingham metro area had median earnings of $35,593 in 2012, lower than in roughly two thirds of other metro areas. Women also made just 71 cents to every $1 that men made. One particularly notable example is the finance, insurance and real estate sector, in which women accounted for 57% of total employment. Despite this, women earned just 55 cents for every dollar men working in the sector made. This was worse than the pay gap in all but five other major areas nationwide.
5. Augusta, Ga., metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 70.7%
- Median earnings for men: $46,089 (35th lowest)
- Median earnings for women: $32,565 (11th lowest)
Women were actually fairly well-represented in the Augusta workforce in 2012, accounting for 45% of all jobs — higher than in most major metro areas. Still, the median earnings for a woman that year were just 70% those of a man. In the educational services, and health care and social assistance sector, which accounted for one-quarter of the area's total employment, women's median earnings were just $35,783 in 2012. This was one of the sector's lowest female median wages in the country, and was just 70% of the median earnings for area men employed in the sector.
4. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif., metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 70.3%
- Median earnings for men: $45,390 (26th lowest)
- Median earnings for women: $31,924 (3rd lowest)
Women in the Bakersfield metro area had median earnings of just $31,924 in 2012, lower than in nearly any other major metropolitan area in the country that year. Women were not only paid less than men, but they were also far less likely than men to hold a job. Women accounted for just 37.5% of the employed civilian population. Outside of the military, which is a major employer in Kern County, where the Bakersfield metro area is located, a number of the area's major employers are in agriculture. Men accounted for nearly 90% of Bakersfield's' agricultural employment in 2012, and had median earnings of $36,902 — double the median for women.
3. Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, Penn., metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 69.9%
- Median earnings for men: $45,951 (34th lowest)
- Median earnings for women: $32,121 (7th lowest)
Women living in the Scranton area earned less than 70 cents for every dollar men earned. Even in industries where women made up much of the employment total, the wage gap persisted. One sector where women were especially well-represented was in finance, insurance, and real estate. But even in this sector, women still earned just 62 cents to every dollar men earned. In education, where women made up nearly 63% of all workers, they still earned 13 cents less for each dollar men earned. This may have had an outsized effect on the overall wage gap as well. Scranton is a college town and education, along with health care and social services, made up 26% of total employment as of 2012.
2. Baton Rouge, La., metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 65.7%
- Median earnings for men: $51,758 (24th highest)
- Median earnings for women: $34,028 (20th lowest)
Women working in the information sector in Baton Rouge were actually paid considerably more than their male peers, earning $62,796 in 2012, among the highest in the nation. However, women working in other industries were grossly underpaid relative to men that year. While 13.1% of Baton Rouge construction workers were women in 2012 — more than all but three other cities — female construction workers earned $31,721, just 65% of what men earned, a larger wage gap than in any other city. Similarly, women working in the manufacturing sector were paid a little more than half of what men working in the same sector were paid in 2012, a larger pay gap than nearly any other major metro area.
1. Provo-Orem, Utah, metro
- Women's pay as a pct. of men's: 63.4%
- Median earnings for men: $50,583 (33rd highest)
- Median earnings for women: $32,082 (5th lowest)
The Provo metro area had larger disparities in pay between men and women than any other large metropolitan area in the U.S. While men's median earnings in the Provo area were $50,583 in 2012, higher than in two-thirds of all major metro areas, women's earnings were far less. That year, the median earnings for women employed full time, year round in Provo was just $32,082, lower than in nearly all other large metro areas. Women accounted for less than one third of all workers in the area in 2012, much less than their 47% share of the workforce nationwide.