Econ Quiz: Women’s Highest Paying Jobs

(Image Source: Tbel Abuseridze / Unsplash)

April 2024

Women have made significant strides toward equitable representation in the highest paying occupations in the United States. According to a recent publication by Pew Research Center, in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, 35% of jobs in the ten highest paying occupations were held by women as compared to only 13% in 1980. In 2021, women were 40% of practicing lawyers (14% in 1980), 26% of actuaries (25% in 1980), and 29% of chief executives and public administrators (data not available for 1980).

While women have made some progress in traditional science and engineering occupations, there are still large gaps. In 2021, women were 24% of physicists and astronomers (6% in 1980), 7% of airline pilots and navigators (2% in 1980), 8% of petroleum, mining and geology engineers (5% in 1980), and 7% of sales engineers (4% in 1980). This a perplexing gap. Science and engineering require similar skills and knowledge as high paying medical fields, and it not clear why women are still vastly under-represented in science and engineering but rapidly advancing toward equal representation, or majority representation, in high paying health care occupations but not science and engineering.

Women have blazed the biggest trails toward gender equality in high paying healthcare occupations. In 2021, women were 33% of dentists (7% in 1980) and 38% of physicians (13% in 1980). Among the highest paying occupations, women have made the greatest advance in employment as pharmacists. In 1980, 24% of pharmacists were women. What proportion of pharmacist jobs were held by women in 2021?

A. 42%

B. 99%

C. 15%

D. 61%

E. 53%


Answer: D. In 2021, 61% of pharmacists were women. The future of high paying medical occupations is female. In 2021, over half of dental school students and medical students, and three-fifths of pharmacy students, were women.

Schaeffer, K. (27 February 2024). For Women’s History Month, a look at gender gains – and gaps – in the U.S. Pew Research Center.

Our Work

Latest News & Updates

Support Extension