The Rise of Women in the Creative Class

Women have become an increasingly important force in the U.S. labor market and especially in its knowledge based creative economy. Some argue that the economic crisis has tilted the playing field away from men, who have borne the brunt of blue collar job losses, and towards women, who are more concentrated in knowledge and service work. Using data from the American Community Survey (ACS) of the U.S. Census Bureau, this report provides a numbers-driven look at the status of women in today’s job market, nationally and state-by-state (plus the District of Columbia). We develop a measure of the “location premium” states which provide for women overall and for women in the Creative Class. Utilizing several metrics we then develop a “Women’s Earnings Index” which we use to rank the best states for women—in the labor market overall and for Creative Class jobs in particular.
Women are in a very different place today than they were in the 1950s. 47.4 percent of the overall workforce is female. Though women hold only 18.3 percent of blue collar jobs they comprise 62.6 percent of the workforce in the service field. Most of those jobs, unfortunately, are low skill and low pay. But 52.3 percent of Creative Class jobs are held by women as well—and women are a clear majority in four out of the nine occupational categories that comprise the Creative Class. Women hold three quarters of the jobs in healthcare, seven out of ten jobs in education, and more than half (54 percent) of the jobs in the legal profession. Only 40 percent of management jobs are filled by women, and just 30 percent of jobs involving computers and math. Women are most significantly under-represented in architecture and engineering, where men comprise 85 percent of the workforce.
While women have increased their role in the overall economy and in the Creative Class in particular, there is a substantial gender gap in earnings. Overall, men are paid 50 percent more than women; Creative Class men earn a staggering 70 percent more than their female counterparts. The gap shrinks somewhat when we control for hours worked, education, and skills, but women still earn $10,600 less than men overall and $23,700 less than men in Creative Class jobs.
The pay gap is widest in occupations where women make up the largest share of the workforce, e.g. education, training, and libraries (where women outnumber men three to one but earn approximately 30 percent less), healthcare (where there are three times as many women as men but the pay difference is more than 50 percent—$49,887 versus $109,938), and law (where the average salary for women is $65,886 versus $137,680 for men), but there are substantial pay gaps in virtually every Creative Class field. Women in management, business, and finance occupations earn almost 40 percent less than their male colleagues. The gaps are smaller but still significant in architecture, engineering, and the sciences and smaller still in computer and mathematical occupations.
Our report also identifies some notable geographic trends. Women comprise more than half thetotal workforce in the District of Columbia and four states: Washington, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and South Dakota. Women in the District of Columbia earn the most overall—$53,450, $10,000 more than the second ranked state. Women’s earnings top $40,000 in just three other states: Maryland ($42,164), New Mexico ($41,452) and Connecticut ($40,716). Women earn less than $25,000 per year in seven states: North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Virginia, Utah, and Wyoming. Based on our Women’s Earnings Index, the best states for women to work are the District of Columbia, Maryland, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Wyoming, Idaho, Virginia, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma are the worst.
Women make up more than half of the Creative Class workforce in every state but Utah. With average earnings of $70,395, Creative Class women do best in the District of Columbia. Creative Class women earn more than $50,000 in ten states: New Mexico ($59,476), Maryland ($58,848), California ($56,876), Connecticut ($56,803), Nevada ($54,630), Massachusetts ($53,645), Vermont ($52,757), Delaware ($50,929), and New Hampshire ($50,679). According to the Creative Class Women’s Earnings Index, Alaska is also an excellent state for Creative Class women. Creative Class women earn less than $36,000 in six states: Montana ($34,169), North Dakota ($34,448), South Dakota ($35,018), Idaho ($35,286), Utah ($35,872), and Wyoming ($35,874).
Our findings are decidedly mixed. Yes, women have been gaining ground—especially in professional, knowledge, and creative jobs, where they now make up the majority of the workforce. But substantial pay gaps remain, across all occupations and especially in higher skill Creative Class occupations. The gaps are widest in the fields where women hold the largest majorities of jobs—even when we control for education, skill and effort. Also, women’s gains are not evenly distributed geographically—they do much better in some states than others. So while the economic playing field may be tilting toward women, it still has a long way to go before it is equal.