It's 2013 and men famously still earn more money than women do for completing the exact same work; as AOL Jobs has reported, women have been making an average of 77 percent as men since 2005. But according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are three classes of workers who are seeing the reverse trend -- it's Eve and not Adam who's walking away from the workplace as the richer one.
Such a phenomenon is exceedingly rare; women were found to be making more than men in just two of the 150 occupations analyzed by the BLS, as was reported by the Atlantic. Indeed, a recent study by the non-profit research group Catalyst surveying women's role in the business sector shines a light on the lack of gender parity in the American workforce. The study found that women comprise 14 percent of executive officers, 16 percent of seats on Boards, eight percent of top earners and four percent of CEO's in the country. They do, however, make up half the labor-force today.
So how could some female workers be earning more than men? Experts interviewed for this article say there's no clear explanation for the phenomenon, in part because the BLS does not publish information on how the genders are represented at different levels of management within sectors, among other reasons. The BLS, for its part, does not make public comments trying to explain labor market developments. But see below for the three categories of workers in which women outearn men:
1. Part-time workers
Number of workers: As of October, there were 26,893,000 part-time workers in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wage Information: For workers putting in 35 hours a week, women make on average 35 percent more. For workers logging 25 hours a week, the difference was closer to four percent.
Why are women outearning men?: The explanation is likely the result of "marriage and children," posited Atlantic writer Jordan Weissman. As he wrote, it's still far more likely for a highly educated professional women to cut their hours than it is for a man to have time to help raise children. But other factors favor part-time female workers; "as a group, [they] are somewhat more likely to have gone to college, and far less likely to have dropped out of high school, than part-time men," as he wrote. And so many of the men working part-time are doing so because they lack alternative options, unlike many women, who have chosen to go part-time.
And as Ken Matos, the senior director of employment research and practice for the Families and Work Institute, a New York-based non-profit workplace research institute, pointed out via email to AOL Jobs, the findings might not actually suggest progress for women at all. As he wrote, "part-time women are not being compared to their job peers," and so a part-time female attorney earning more than a part-time male store clerk is not really indicative of anything.
Number of workers: There's a total of 519,000 people working in the field, according to the BLS. Exactly two thirds, or 66 percent, are women.
Wage Information: Women counselors make on average $855 a week, versus $848 for all counselors.
Why are women outearning men?: As a general rule, when there are more women than men in a field the wage gap tends to be smaller, as Linda Barrington, the executive director for the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University's Industrial Labor Relations School, told AOL Jobs. Such a plurality of women workers also helps to undermine bias against women in both pay and career advancement, she said.
With such factors in play, one explanation why women counselors - a category that includes a range of positions from high school guidance counselors to mental health workers - are outearning men is that professionals with master's degrees are paid higher, and women are more likely to have completed advanced degrees, as Ariane Hegeswich, the study director of the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Women's Policy Research told AOL Jobs. Additionally, she noted, many counselors work in the public sector, which often mandate transparent pay scales that are known to help close the wage gap.
Finally, as Hegeswich pointed out, women are more likely to stick around in fields that are not known for high payoffs. As a result, it would stand to reason that many of the more senior workers with higher salaries are women.
3. Health practitioner support technologists and technicians
Number of workers: There's a total of 403,000 people working in the field, and 80 percent are women.
Salary information: Women technicians make an average of $621 a week, versus $615 for all technicians. There's a total of 403,000 people working in the field.
Why are women outearning men?: According to Barrington, women who pursue careers in the sciences are more likely to enter medical-related fields than engineering or computer science. And so as a result, it's possible that there's a higher concentration of the most talented women in medical-related fields, such as technician work, which includes x-ray analysis.
Women also tend to do better salary-wise in occupations that don't feature "market-pay hierarchy," as Barrington called it. That means women tend to lose out salary-wise in professions that feature a a wide salary range, such as in medicine, where brain surgeons far outearn pediatricians, for instance. "But for technicians, they're really just technicians," she said. "And so you see the dynamic of women staying around longer and rising to the higher-paying positions within fields that are not known for offering high pay."