Reuters

More women are working white collar jobs, but they're earning less than their male counterparts

"What if the modern, post-industrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men?" asks Hanna Rosin in her widely-discussed Atlantic essay, "The End of Men." "The attributes that are most valuable today -- social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus -- are, at a minimum, not predominantly male." Rosin argues that the post-industrial playing field has been tilting toward attributes associated with women (such as their superior social and communication skills) and away from physical skills essential in industrial and agricultural economies. All this led her to ask rather bluntly, "why wouldn’t you choose a girl?"

The ongoing economic crisis appears to have accelerated this shift, leading some to call it a "mancession." More than three-quarters of the jobs that were lost over the course of the crisis were held by men, and the unemployment rate has been consistently higher for men than for women. As of February 2010, women made up a larger share of the total U.S. workforce, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yesterday I looked at the best states for women overall. Today, I turn my attention to the rise of women in high-paying creative class occupations. All the data comes from my newly-released Martin Prosperity Institute study, "The Rise of Women in the Creative Class," which I wrote with Charlotta Mellander and Karen King.

Approximately 36 million Americans, or about one third of the workforce, hold creative class jobs. These jobs pay 60 percent more than the average salary and have been far less vulnerable in the recession, averaging just half the level of the overall unemployment rate.

 

Women hold slightly more than half (52.3 percent) of creative class jobs and their average level of education is almost the same as men. But the pay they receive is anything but equal. Creative class men earn an average of $82,009 versus $48,077 for creative class women. This $33,932 gap is a staggering 70 percent of the average female creative class salary. Even when we control for hours worked and education in a regression analysis, creative class men out-earn creative class women by a sizable $23,700, or 49.2 percent.

Let’s now turn to the specific occupations which make up the creative class. Men dominate several job categories: architecture and engineering (where they make up 85.4 percent of the labor force), computer science and math (where their share is 72.3 percent), management (60.7 percent) and the sciences (55.5 percent). Women comprise larger shares of health-care (75.5 percent), education (73.6 percent) and legal occupations (54.0 percent).

Women earn lower wages across the board, with the biggest disparities in the fields where they make up the largest share of the workforce. Take health-care for example: there are three times as many women as men in the workforce, but they earn on average less than half as much ($49,877 vs. $109,938). Or law, where women make up 54 percent of the workforce, but also earn less than half as much as men ($65,886 vs. $137,680). In management and finance occupations women earn almost 40 percent less than men. Women earn approximately 30 percent less than men in education, training and library occupations, where they make up 73.6 percent of the workforce. Women earn 25 percent less than men in architecture and engineering and the sciences. The smallest gap is in computer and mathematical occupations, where men on average earn approximately 20 percent more than women.

Earnings are a function of skill and effort as well as gender. But even after we control for these factors, a relatively large earnings gap between men and women remains. The gender wage gap across the major creative class occupations ranges from $20,000-plus on the high end ($23,400 for management, $24,300 for law, and $26,600 for healthcare occupations ), to around $8,000-$10,000 on the low end ($8,700 for education, $9,800 for life, physical, and social science, and $9,900 for architecture and engineering).

Women clearly have a long way to go before they receive their full share of the rewards of creative class membership. Tomorrow we'll look at how creative class women fare in different states.

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