Women who want to earn more on Wall Street than their male colleagues have one reliable option. They can set up a shoe-shine stand in Lower Manhattan.
Female personal care and service workers, which include butlers, valets, house sitters and shoe shiners, earned $1.02 for every $1 their male counterparts made in 2010, according to census data compiled by Bloomberg. That job category, which covers 38,210 full-time workers in the U.S., was the only one of 265 major occupations where the median female salary exceeded the amount paid to men.
The six jobs with the largest gender gap in pay and at least 10,000 men and 10,000 women were in the Wall Street-heavy financial sector: insurance agents, managers, clerks, securities sales agents, personal advisers and other specialists. Advanced- degree professions proved no better predictors of equality. Female doctors made 63 cents for every $1 earned by male physicians and surgeons, the data show. Female chief executives earned 74 cents for every $1 made by male counterparts.
The Census Bureau figures underscore the lack of financial progress made in the generation since women began leaving the home and moving into the workforce in large numbers. While the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression initially hit women less severely, their median earnings still trailed men in 505 of 525 occupations tracked by the federal government.
“We don’t see the pay gap closing,” Ilene H. Lang, president and chief executive officer of Catalyst, a New York- based nonprofit group that seeks to advance women in business, said in a telephone interview. “It’s persistent.”
That isn’t to say the gap hasn’t narrowed as full-time female employees are now better educated, less likely to be married and more likely to delay childbirth. Those developments have helped shrink the median-pay disparity for all occupations to 77 cents for every $1 earned by men from 61 cents during the last 50 years, according to the census figures, which cover earnings for more than 95.5 million full-time, year-round American workers over the age of 16.
Women made up 57.6 percent of the labor force in the U.S. finance and insurance industries, according to an analysis published this month by Catalyst. Yet females constituted 3.7 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives and 18.3 percent of corporate-board directors, the study showed.
Bank Tellers Closest
The financial sector pays women in the six major jobs with the biggest salary gap from 55 to 62 cents for every $1 made by men, according to the census. Female bank tellers, with a median salary of $23,695, came closest to narrowing the gap in the industry, pulling down 96 cents for every $1 earned.
One reason female professionals make less money in the financial sector is that they tend to wind up in lower-paying positions such as in public finance rather than on trading desks, said Louise Marie Roth, a University of Arizona sociologist and author of “Selling Women Short: Gender and Money on Wall Street.”
Women often simply don’t know how much they’re being underpaid because a large percentage of Wall Street salaries are based on bonuses that are kept secret, she said.
“A lot of people talk about Wall Street being a meritocracy,” Roth said. “But it’s not always true.”
Gap Hasn’t Budged
Among occupations requiring advanced degrees, female lawyers, who reported annual median earnings of $97,964, made 78 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Female university professors, with a median salary of $55,292, earned 80 cents for every dollar. They suffer professionally when they take time off to provide care for children, aging parents or both, said John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy at the American Association of University Professors.
The percentage of full-time female university professors has grown to 28 percent from 10 percent in 1981, according to an April study by Curtis. Women made up 57 percent of undergraduate students and 59 percent of graduate students in 2009, the association reported.
The organization has tracked pay disparity for three decades now. “The gap really hasn’t budged,” Curtis said.
Many women are happy to trade travel-heavy, intense jobs at major law offices for those that offer a higher quality of life, said Mary Cranston, a retired senior partner and former chairman at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in San Francisco. High- end law firms offering large salaries are still predominantly male.
“That’s changing gradually, but it’s a long, slow road,” Cranston said. “I don’t know when pay equality will happen.”
Lower pay for female physicians and surgeons has usually been attributed to the number of women who go into lower-paying primary-care specialties, according to a February 2011 Health Affairs article by researchers at the University of Illinois- Chicago, Northwestern University and Yale University. Yet their study found the pay gap persisted even as the percentage of new primary-care doctors who were female dropped to about 35 percent in 2008 from almost 50 percent in 1999.
The starting-salary disparity between male and female physician “cannot be explained by specialty choice, practice setting, work hours or other characteristics,” the study’s authors said. “The unexplained trend toward diverging salaries appears to be a recent development that is growing over time.”
The wage gap among all job categories has been narrowing by one-half of a cent every year since 1963, according to a study released last April by the National Partnership for Women & Families. At that rate, women will achieve pay parity with men in 2056, the Washington-based organization said.
Secretaries Take Note
The size of the remaining gap is most evident in high- paying jobs. It’s underscored by the disproportionate number of women in certain occupations. About 96 percent of the 2.6 million secretaries and administrative assistants in the U.S. are women. They’re paid 87 cents for every $1 made by a male secretary.
Among the 265 occupations with more than 10,000 men and women employed, female registered nurses earned 92 cents for every $1 earned by male colleagues. Female flight attendants made 89 cents for every $1. Female hairdressers, stylists and cosmetologists made 68 cents for every $1 earned by a man.
Female butlers are the exception, making slightly more than their male counterparts. Demand for them is growing, said Steven Ferry, chairman of the Clearwater, Florida-based International Institute of Modern Butlers. He questioned the $25,645 median salary for women in the field, noting that butlers can be paid as much as $500,000.
“Any butler making only $25,000 should be shot,” he said. “Still, female butlers can be more nurturing. And they’re often better eye candy.”
Editors: Flynn McRoberts, Mark McQuillan
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