Women have made significant progress in the U.S. labor market, now representing 35% of workers in the highest-paid occupations, compared to 13% in 1980. The increase in female participation in the workforce is particularly noticeable in various fields, including medicine, law, and pharmacy. However, they still remain a minority in some occupations.
An exception to this trend is in the field of pharmacy, where 61% of pharmacists are women. Nevertheless, this percentage still falls significantly below their representation in the overall U.S. workforce, which is 47%.
Workers in high-paying occupations typically earn over $100,000 a year, more than double the national average of $41,000.
¿Where have women made the most progress?
Data from the Pew Research Center revealed that the presence of women has changed significantly in some occupations compared to others. Since 1980, the proportion of women dentists has more than quadrupled, from 7% to 33%. In the field of medicine, it has approximately tripled from 13% to 38%.
The proportion of female lawyers has increased from 14% to 40%, while those working in well-paid engineering fields have seen smaller increases since 1980. They represent less than 10% of sales engineers and those in petroleum, mining, and geological engineering.
In addition, only 7% of pilots and flight engineers are women, up from 2% in 1980.
Women have made progress in obtaining higher education degrees
In some of these well-paid occupations, including medicine, law, dentistry, and pharmacy, specialized postgraduate degrees are required, and women have increasingly pursued such qualifications.
Women now represent approximately half of those receiving the following advanced degrees:
- Juris Doctor: 52% of recipients are women today, compared to 30% in 1980.
- Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine: 51% of recipients are women, compared to 13% in 1980.
- Doctor of Medicine: 50% of recipients are women, compared to 23% in 1980.
Women also now earn 63% of Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees, similar to their proportion in the pharmacy occupation, which stands at 61%.
Pharmacy is also one of the leading occupations where women make up the majority, potentially due to the field offering flexible work hours, a collaborative environment, and family-friendly policies.
Despite this, women remain a minority among those receiving certain undergraduate degrees required for some well-paid occupations:
- Mathematics or statistics: 42% of recipients are women today, unchanged since 1980.
- Physics: 25% of recipients are women, compared to 13% in 1980.
- Engineering: 23% of recipients are women, compared to 9% in 1980.
Beyond the choice of college majors, there are other reasons why women may face barriers to entry into well-paid occupations. Gender differences in household and parental responsibilities can play a role, as well as gender discrimination.