Working Women

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Unfortunately, as we all know or should know, working women generally make less than working  men -- currently 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. But now come new Census figures showing that women are doing much better than men among higher-paid workers. The number of women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than the number of men making six-figure incomes.

About one in 18 women working full-time last year earned $100,000 or more, an increase of 14 percent from two years earlier. Only one in seven men made $100,000 or more -- an increase of just four percent.

Why so many higher-paid women? The most important reason seems to be the steady growth over the past three decades of women with the academic credentials to qualify them for higher-paying jobs. Women, in fact, now outnumber men at just about every level of higher education, with three women attending college and graduate school for every two men doing so. Women earn more master's degrees and more PhDs than men. Most law school students are women. So are almost half of the country's medical students.

The wage gap between men and women overall nevertheless has only slightly narrowed. And the glass ceiling is still very much in evidence. For despite women's increased pay, women are only sparsely represented at the higher levels of business. Just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, for instance.

There are, of course, Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO, who were very much in evidence during the midterm election news. But they're definitely exceptions to the general rule that big bosses and many not-so-big are generally men.


So, although working women hold far fewer higher leadership positions than men and are still far behind in compensation generally, their greater educational attainments have helped them do better than men at finding jobs paying six-figure incomes. Working women still have a long way to go before reaching wage equity with men. But they're clearly on the way.

With a Perspective, this is Dick Meister.