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Equal Pay for Women: Women Still Trailing Behind Despite Higher Education

By Rachel Nye


NerdScholar compared the top ten best jobs for equal pay and ten worst jobs for equal pay.

  • Between the two groups, the jobs with the worst pay were where women earned 66 cents for every dollar a man earned and required more education. Men earned more than $25,000 than their female counterparts in this group.
  • Women are winning the race to college, but remain behind their male counterparts in equal pay. Across the board, women earn 82% of what men earn.
  • More women are obtaining college degrees and using them to climb to the top, but may only be finding a greater pay gap at the top. As chief executives, women earn $76,128 as versus their male counterparts at $110,344.

More women each year are graduating from colleges of all types-Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor’s degree. On all academic levels, women are taking the lead. 62% of Associate’s, 58% of bachelors, 60% of Master’s and 52% of Doctor’s degrees go to women. In 2010, nearly 2 million women earned a degree of higher education, while only 1.3 million men earned theirs. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women are earning 82% of what men earn.

NerdScholar analyzed the wage gap at its extremes. It looked at the ten jobs with the best equal fair pay for women. Women’s pay in these jobs, on average, were 102% of men’s pay. NerdScholar compared these jobs to the ten worst jobs for equal fair pay for women. Women earned, on average, 66% of men’s pay.

There are key differences in the two clusters of jobs. The jobs that tended to pay women the most equal, required less education and less skill, such as store clerks, receptionist, and information clerks.

The average compensation was lower as well. The jobs that paid women .66 cents on the dollar for men were generally characterized as “power” and leadership jobs, such as chief executives, education administrators and finance positions. These jobs on average had greater compensation.

These findings indicate, women are climbing the ladder to higher earnings, but are also climbing the ladder only to find a greater pay gap.

Within the ten worst jobs for equal pay, men earned over $25,000 than their female counterparts. At the high end and the most traditional power job, chief executive females earned $76,128 yearly while their male counterparts earned $110,344 on average.

So, what is the big rush for a college degree?

Women are taking on these higher degrees, going deeper into debt because of the promise of greater pay and a more substantial future. Typically, greater student debt has been correlated with higher rates of graduation, up to a certain breaking point. After that point, adding any more debt doesn’t increase graduation rates.

A study performed by Ohio State University found that female students had a higher threshold of student debt ($14,682) than their male counterparts ($12,711). Translated, this meant these women were willing to go further into debt than men to earn these degrees — the degrees thus had more worth to these women. But, why?

OSU specialists suggested that the job prospects for women, should they drop out, are worse for women. Citing previous research, women who dropped out of school earned $6,500 less than their male counterparts. Thus, dropping out not only meant lower earning potentials overall, it also meant worse options than their male counterparts.

College degrees may mean more to women because it’s not just the higher earning potential of a college degree, but that the options without a degree are much worse for them than men. But what waits for them after their degree in terms of equal pay?

Women are earning higher degrees to provide themselves with a better future. A higher average salary is a huge draw and argument for a college degree. With an average extra $15,000 with a college degree, its no wonder women are obtaining degrees at a faster rate than ever before.

Once women enter the workface, they’re left to climb up the ladder. If equality is the name of the game, what incentive is there for women to keep climbing?

To put in those hours, when, at the end of the day a larger pay gap is staring them back in the face. It seems the opportunities are equal for men and women to obtain a degree, but the rewards at the top of the mountain are far different.

Women are willing go more into debt for a degree, so that they can earn less at the end. Some say the equal pay fight is over because we’ve come such a long way, because it’s so much better than it used to be.

The equal pay issue is not over until there’s equal pay everywhere. In every small nook and cranny of the career industry from the peak of the hierarchy to the bottom rungs. A fight isn’t won when you feel it’s good enough. It’s over when the issue has been fully eradicated.

Ten Worst Occupations for Equal Pay Percentage of Men’s Pay Men’s Yearly Median Earnings Women’s Yearly Median Earnings Average Overall Salary
Education Administrators 69.3% $79,664 $55,172 $83,710
Chief Executives 69% $110,344 $76,128 $101,250
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents 69.7% $65,988 $34,580 $70,190
Real estate brokers and sales agents 68.1% $51,584 $37,856 $42,680
Marketing and Sales Managers 67.9% $86,320 $58,604 $98,530
Financial Managers 65.9% $78,208 $51,532 $103,910
Insurance sales agents 64.4% $53,716 $34,580 $46,770
Loan Officers 61.6% $69,940 $43,108 $56,490
Personal Finance advisors 61.3% $79,820 $48,932 $64,750
Property, Real Estate and Community Service Managers 60.6% $62,452 $37,856 $51,480
Average 65.78% $73,804 $47,835 $71,976


Ten Best Occupations for Equal Pay Percentage of Men’s Pay Men’s Yearly Median Earnings Women’s Yearly Median Earnings Average Overall Salary
Respiratory Therapists 106.4% $50,232 $53,456 $54,280
Computer support specialists 106.1% $46,592 $49,452 $46,260
Operations research analysts 105.4% $65,416 $68,952 $70,960
Stock clerks and order filers 102.7% $25,376 $26,052 $25,584
Medical Scientists 102.3% $57,304 $58,604 $76,700
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 100.3% $34,008 $34,112 $34,030
Packers and packagers, hand 100.3% $20,592 $20,644 $20,644
Receptionists 99.8% $27,092 $27,040 $25,240
Information clerks 99.8% $27,092 $27,040 $29,990
Police and Sheriffs patrol officers 98.9% $49,296 $48,776 $49,244
Averages 102.2% $40,300 $41,412.8 $43,293

Rachel Ny is a strategy analyst for the Education and Financial Literacy team for NerdScholar, a personal finance website with a scholarship search tool, a millennial focused finance blog called Nerd Girls Who Budget, and more.

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