The gap between women and men in the best-paid jobs is not closing at the same rate in all fields of activity. Image: Shutterstock
Year after year, the observation remains the same. Although women hold more qualifications than men, they are less likely to hold positions of power and responsibility, and therefore the best paid ones, a new American report reveals.
In fact, women make up just 35% of people working in one of the top ten highest-paid occupations in the USA. While this figure may seem low, it is much higher than that recorded in 1980 (13%). This shows that women have greater access to the highest-paid positions than ever before, whatever their sector of activity.
But they remain the minority in nine of the ten highest-paid jobs, with the exception of pharmacists. American women account for 61% of the payroll in this profession, which pays an average of $117,000 a year. "This could be because the field offers flexible work hours, a collaborative environment and family-friendly policies," explains the Pew Research Center report.
In recent decades, corporate governance bodies have emphasized the need to feminize companies in order to promote diversity in the professional sector. But there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the highest-paid occupations. The proportion of women dentists has risen considerably since 1980, when they accounted for 7% of the sector's employees. Today, they account for a third. Similarly, the proportion of women physicians has roughly tripled in four decades, from 13% to 38%. Also read: For women, early promotion is vital to reducing the gender pay gap
Varying rates of progress
However, the gap between women and men in the top-paying jobs is not closing at the same rate in all fields of activity. The proportion of women engineers in the oil, mining and geology industries has risen from just 5% to 8% since 1980. Yet this profession offers an annual salary of $112,000, making it the 10th best-paid occupation in the USA.
The same trend can be observed among sales engineers and physicists/astronomers. Women make up just 7% and 24% respectively of workers holding these two jobs, which pay an average of $120,000 a year. Similarly, just 7% of airplane pilots are women.
While several factors can explain the under-representation of women in top-paying jobs, the report's authors emphasize the key role played by higher education in this phenomenon. The vast majority of the best-paid jobs in the United States require university degrees. This prerequisite condition has not escaped the attention of women. With the exception of mathematics and statistics, an increasing number of women hold degrees that give them access to higher-paying jobs. Women represent only 42% of graduates in these two fields, the same as in 1980.