Even with more women settling into the role of family breadwinner, the gender pay gap only rarely settles in their favor.
Today, 23 percent of women earn more than their husbands, up from 4 percent who did in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center study released this week. But that’s not necessarily an indication that women are earning more. Comparing full-time, year-round workers, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, said Dana Britton, director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. In 1960, the gap was about 61 cents to the dollar.
“Traditionally, in couples where women out-earn men, it’s been temporary,” she said.
Still, critics say the gap may not be quite so wide. Broadly, there tend to be more men in high-paying fields like technology, and more women in lower-paid ones such as education, creating much of the imbalance, said management consultant Steve Tobak, managing partner for Invisor Consulting in California.
Plus, government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau tend to compare the wages of all women with a given job title against all men with a given job title, regardless of differences in geographic location, education or years of experience.
With a more apples-to-apples comparison controlling for such factors, “the gap all but disappears,” said Katie Bardaro, lead economist for salary data site PayScale.com.
For example, the typical female firefighter makes 1.6 percent less than her male counterpart, rather than the steeper 19 percent difference comparing median pay. Smaller pay gaps may be more explainable as men being more willing to negotiate, or women losing out on pay advances when leaving the workforce to have children, Tobak said.
While it’s smart for women to consider which fields pay well in general when choosing a career, they shouldn’t rush to switch based on a perceived gender disparity in earnings, Britton said. Winning jobs shift quickly. For example, based on BLS data from 2009, female bakers earned 4 percent more than male bakers. In 2012, the men outearned the women by more than 11 percent.
But if you do want to follow the money, these 12 jobs are among those where women are the top earners.
Female auditors make 13.7 percent more than men, with an average reported salary of $61,114, according to salary data site GlassDoor.com. Women in finance jobs tend to have more competitive pay, likely because they negotiate, said Allyson Willoughby, the site’s general counsel and senior vice president of people.
Based on a median salary of $41,300, female models make 148.8 percent more than male models, according to PayScale.com. Assessing models with similar experience in the job, the gap narrows to 28.4 percent, but there’s likely still a wide range, according to Bardaro. “We can’t control for inherent things like beauty,” she said.
Health Practitioner Support Technologist
Technicians who assist dietitians, pharmacists, surgeons and other medical professionals earn a median weekly wage of $615, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women earn $621 to men’s $599. Women have been outearning the median wage for all workers in a variety of other low- and mid-level health care jobs, too, including physician assistants, medical and dental assistants and dental hygienists.
The median $226,000 salary for female oncologists is 9.7 percent higher than what male oncologists earn, according to PayScale.com. Among doctors with similar experience and education, the gap narrows to 0.8 percent.
Real Estate Agent
Female real estate agents on GlassDoor.com report an average salary of $42,156—$2,741 more than men. Perhaps tellingly, many of the jobs where women outearn are those that entail a lot of interaction with other people, which women tend to be good at, Willoughby said.
Finance and insurance fields aren’t as male dominated as people might think—women represent 55 percent of the headcount, according to a PayScale.com report released Thursday. They also clean up, salary-wise. Female stockbrokers earn a median $55,000, or 13.2 percent more than men do. Among stockbrokers of comparable experience and education, they still outearn men by 8.9 percent.
Miscellaneous Personal Appearance Worker
In this Bureau of Labor Statistics category, which covers some makeup artists, manicurists, shampooers and skincare specialists, women earn 0.7 percent more than the typical worker. In 2012, all workers earned a median weekly wage of $427, versus $430 for women. (Not all jobs favor women, however—hairstylists in general earn a median $473, while female hairstylists earn $468.)
Female detectives earn 21.8 percent more than men, with a median salary of $67,500, according to PayScale.com. Among detectives with comparable backgrounds and experience, the gap is 10 percent.
Human Resources Professional
Most HR administrators—90 percent—are women, Bardaro said. Whether women come out ahead, though, varies by role. Female administrators make a median $41,200, just $100 less than men, according to PayScale.com. But HR training managers with comparable experience earn $47,400, 3.4 percent more than men. GlassDoor.com puts the median salary for a female HR director at $113,868, outearning men by $2,029, or 1.8 percent.
Women earn a median weekly wage of $855 as counselors for mental health, substance abuse and other social and health issues, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 2.6 percent more than men in the same job, who earn a median $833.
Female chemists earn an average $55,671, which works out to an extra 2.5 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to GlassDoor.com. Another science job on the outearn list: associate scientist. Women with the title earned 7.5 percent more than men, with an average reported salary of $66,721.
Shopping jokes aside, female buyers—who purchase items for retailers’ inventory—earn 108 percent what men with the same title do, with an average salary of $63,848, according to GlassDoor.com.