The 10 Industries That Pay Women the Least


By Charles Stockdale & Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.

professional woman
professional woman

Women continue to struggle for equal rights in the workplace. For at least two decades, they have earned 80% of the wages of men doing equivalent jobs. That should be a shock to most people since the feminist movement is several decades old. Sadly, though, the financial gains that women have made have eroded in recent years. "The ratio of women's and men's median annual earnings, was 77.0 for full-time, year-round workers in 2009, essentially unchanged from 77.1 in 2008. (This means the gender wage gap for full-time year-round workers is now 22.9 percent.) This is below the peak of 77.8 percent in 2007," according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

24/7 Wall St. analyzed data from the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Labor, the Census Bureau, as well as Catalyst, the leading nonprofit organization for expanding women in business, and The Institute for Women's Policy Research, to determine which ten industries have the greatest pay disparity between the sexes. Along with this information, we have added other data that might shed some light on the issue. According to this research, women make as little as two-thirds what men do to perform the same job in some industries.

Researchers say that one cause of the ongoing inequality is that some large industries employ far more men than women. This includes utilities, public administration, and the retail trade. There is no clear reason why this has happened.

Do men conspire to keep the pay of the women at low levels? There is no evidence that this has occurred. What about the theory that senior management purposely keeps men's pay higher? There is no proof of this either though several legal cases are arguing it.

"Alas, no one has those data as companies tend to be very secretive about this," says Arian Hegewisch, Study Director at IWPR " The best information in theory might be sex discrimination law cases against specific companies, but even there, unless cases are litigated by the EEOC, typically wage and salary data are kept under wraps."

Women may be held back because surprisingly few of them are in senior management at many companies. Research firm Catalyst found that women held 15.7% of the board seats in Fortune 500 companies in 2010, an inexplicable statistic given the number of available qualified female candidates. More than 10 percent had no women serving on their boards.

Woman are not the only group which faces pay discrimination. People of color suffer from similar disadvantages. White men have largely controlled the top-tier of positions in both government and business since the country's founding. It is very likely that people who are in power want themselves and those like them to stay in power. It could be argued that is one, and perhaps the most important, of the reasons for inequality of pay. There is no research, however, that shows that white men purposely decide to underpay women and minorities because it's in their economic self-interest.

This is the 24/7 Wall St. list of "The Ten Industries That Discriminate The Most Against Women", which raises just as many questions as it answers.

10. Retail Trade
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 79.5%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $504
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $634

The retail trade industry involves everything from automobile dealers, to electronics stores such as RadioShack and major department stores such as Walmart, which is currently fighting the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in US history. Relative to other industries on this list, women are well-represented in the retail industry's workforce – there are about 4 women for every 5 men. Despite this majority, women have a difficult time advancing in the retail. And at the very top, the disparity is starker still; there are no female directors at companies such as Dick's Sporting Goods, Dollar General, or The Gap (NYSE: GPS). Bed Bath and Beyond (NASDAQ: BBBY) and Costco (NASDAQ: COST) have no top-tier women executives, according to research firm Catalyst.

9. Wholesale Trade
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 79.3%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $648
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $817

This industry includes wholesalers of lumber and other construction materials, machinery, electronics, and groceries. Women are extremely under-represented in wholesale trade, more so than the retail trade industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that wholesale trade industry consists of roughly 880,000 women and 2.25 million men.

8. Public Administration
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 78.5%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $783
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $998

Even within the government sector, women make significantly less than men. The public administration sector involves positions across the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Police, regulatory bodies and technology are all included. The disparity is surprising, as government is expected to fairly represent the population, and enforces equal opportunity laws. Still, there are about 700,000 more men in public administration positions than women.

7. Information
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 75.8%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $756
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $997

The information industry includes media, communications, and publishing companies. It also has almost twice as many men as women. The disparity in pay also appears to come from the top. Large media firms Liberty Global, CC Media Holdings, and News Corp (NYSE: NWS), have no female directors. Others, which include Telephone & Data Systems, have no female officers.

6. Utilities
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 75.8%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $780
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $1,029
Companies in this industry provide services such as electric power, natural gas, steam and water, and the removal of sewage. There are significantly less women than men in the industry: 211,000 to 984,000. Some occupations within the industry are even more dominated by men. According to the Department of Labor, only 1% of electricians and 1.4% of plumbers are women. 2% of heating, air conditioning, refrigeration mechanics and installers are women. Many companies do not have women in executive positions either. Ameren, Calpine, CenterPoint Energy, Energy Future Holdings, and FPL Group, all do not have any female officers among their ranks.

5. Durable Goods

> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 74.9%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $655
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $875

Durable goods refer to long-lasting products such as metals, machinery, computers, electrical equipment, and motor vehicles. Roughly one in every three workers in this industry is a women. According to the Department of Labor, only 1.5% of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are women, one of the lowest rates among all occupations. The absence of women in top executive positions is also significant. There are no women officers at Crown Holdings, Danaher, Dover, and Flowserve. AGCO, Autoliv, General Cable, and L-3 Communications have no women directors.

4. Nondurable Goods
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 73.8%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $577
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $782

The nondurable goods sector includes production of food, tobacco, paper, petroleum, and coal products. While female workers are more common in the nondurable goods manufacturing sector than in the durable goods industry, with roughly one women for every two men, the pay disparity between genders is greater. Pay is generally low in this industry, compared to other sectors, and is especially so for women. This disparity may be the result of a lack of substantial representation for women among many companies in senior positions. There are no women directors at Frontier Oiling, Holly, Philip Morris (NYSE: PM), or Tesoro. There are no women officers at AbitibiBowater, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Genzyme, H.J. Heinz, and Hess.

3. Health care and social assistance
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 71.8%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $648
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $902

The health care and social assistance industry consists of companies which provide medical care, health care, and social assistance, as well as professionals such as physicians and dentists. This industry has the greatest majority of women employees over men on this list. There are over 10 million women employed and only 2.9 million men. Men still hold more high-paying jobs. According to the American Medical Association, about 70% of physicians are male while about 30% are female.

2. Professional and technical services
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 65.9%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $872
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $1,324

The professional, scientific, and technical services industry includes law, accounting and design firms. The fact that women in this industry are paid so much less money for their services is surprising, especially considering the growing foothold of women. Recent national data shows that 57% of college graduates are women, however men still outnumber them in this industry. There are 3,620,000 employed men compared to 2,715,000 women.

1. Finance and insurance
> Women's Earnings as % of Men's: 62.2%
> Women's Median Weekly Earnings: $738
> Men's Median Weekly Earnings: $1,186

This industry includes companies in the banking, savings institutions, credit unions, investments, and insurance industries. This sector pays women by far the least amount in comparison to their male counterparts. The sector has been riddled with sex discrimination lawsuits since the 1990s, including ones against American Express Financial Advisors, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. Despite this, inequality still clearly exists. Major companies such as AIG (NYSE: AIG), Citigroup (NYSE: C), First American Corp, GAMC, and International Asset Holdings all have zero female officers, which underscores why they are believed to be male-dominated businesses.