The Gender Pay Gap Across the US in 2021

Is your state making progress or standing still?

It’s women’s history month, a perfect time to sit down and take a look at how we’re doing with equality in the workforce. Specifically, if we’ve made any kind of dent in the gender pay gap. 

Unfortunately, despite attempts to increase the number of loans for women-owned businesses and initiatives to equalize pay across the genders, we still have a significant national gap of 18%. That means women make 18% less in their yearly earnings than men.

With all the economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19, it’s hard to say if women’s progress will be a top priority for businesses that are cutting costs to weather the storm. Progress is slow going, but how slow? Let’s dive into the data.

Methodology

States are ranked based on the percentage difference between women’s and men’s earnings for full-time, year-round workers.

We used the stop-pay methodology, where stop-pay dates are based on the day of the year women start working for free based on the gender pay gap in that state. These dates are based on a working calendar that omits weekends. This calendar does not take holidays into account.

All statistics were calculated by aggregating data from a number of government and academic sources.1,2,3,4

Gender Pay Gap Map

Interesting findings

  • US women effectively stop getting paid on Oct. 29 due to a national pay gap of 18%.
  • Women don’t have a higher average salary than men in any US state.
  • Vermont has the smallest pay gap, with women earning only 9% less than men overall.
  • Wyoming has the largest pay gap, with women earning 35% less than men overall.
  • Washington DC boasts the highest average salary for women at $75,750. It’s ranked 13th with a gender pay gap of 17%.
  • Mississippi has the lowest average salary for women at $33,140. It’s ranked 41st with a gender pay gap of 23%.

State-by-state analysis of the gender pay gap

Rank
State
Average female salary
Average male salary
% less that females earn compared to males
Stop pay date
1Vermont$46,616 $51,2129%November 30th
2Hawaii$46,524$52,03311%November 22nd
3Maryland$56,545$63,27211%November 22nd
4California$50,220$57,01612%November 18th
5Nevada$40,775$46,70613%November 15th
6New York$51,927$60,68614%November 10th
7North Carolina$40,640$47,52414%November 10th
8Rhode Island$48,556$57,27815%November 8th
9Alaska$50,832$60,14715%November 8th
10Connecticut$55,636$66,47716%November 3rd
11Arizona$41,496$49,77317%November 1st
12Delaware$46,907$56,35017%November 1st
13District of Columbia$72,750$87,60317%November 1st
14Florida$37,458$45,13617%November 1st
15New Hampshire$49,291$60,40618%October 27th
16Minnesota$49,242$60,44119%October 22nd
17Massachusetts$57,289$70,48319%October 22nd
18Wisconsin$42,360$52,30519%October 22nd
19Georgia$40,481$50,34620%October 20th
20Tennessee$38,284$47,62620%October 20th
21New Jersey$53,810$67,00720%October 20th
22Oregon$44,634$55,65420%October 20th
23Missouri$40,496$50,55820%October 20th
24Maine$40,873$51,02920%October 20th
25Nebraska$41,148$51,41220%October 20th
26Colorado$48,258$60,33420%October 20th
27Virginia$48,209$60,28520%October 20th
28Kentucky$38,763$48,54520%October 20th
29Kansas$40,848$51,29120%October 20th
30Texas$40,670$51,12520%October 20th
31Arkansas$35,467$44,63121%October 15th
32Pennsylvania$43,791$55,22121%October 15th
33Ohio$41,184$52,03921%October 15th
34Washington$50,612$63,98821%October 15th
35Illinois$45,967$58,57922%October 13th
36Iowa$40,681$52,07022%October 13th
37Michigan$41,475$53,15022%October 13th
38New Mexico$36,659$46,98222%October 13th
39Montana$38,752$49,77822%October 13th
40South Carolina$37,584$48,54123%October 8th
41Mississippi$33,140$43,02423%October 8th
42West Virginia$35,748$46,94624%October 8th
43North Dakota$41,718$54,89924%October 8th
44Indiana$38,913$51,32224%October 8th
45Idaho$36,761$48,86125%October 1st
46South Dakota$37,765$50,19625%October 1st
47Alabama$37,161$50,01826%September 28th
48Oklahoma$36,494$49,72127%September 24th
49Louisiana$37,075$51,73328%September 21st
50Utah$39,784$57,11730%September 16th
51Wyoming$37,302$57,33935%August 26th

The next logical question in looking at state disparities is: What exactly is causing certain states to have smaller or larger pay gaps? The answer is not so simple. There are a lot of reasons for pay disparities:

  • Lack of equal access to funding for female-owned businesses
  • Corporate cultures that tend to promote men or where men are more likely to get raises
  • Unequal hiring practices
  • States with cultures that emphasize traditional family work structures
  • The number of women-owned businesses in a given state
  • Lack of local legislation that protects women from discriminatory corporate practices

The points mentioned above are only a few of the reasons large pay gaps may persist in certain states and be smaller in others. It’s crucial to recognize the corporate, local, and governmental cultures that lead to inequality. 

It’s only by fixing the gender issues in our local communities that we can have any hope of making a significant dent in the national pay gap.

As you can see, the pay gap has steadily gotten better over time, but in the last 10 years or so we’ve been in a bit of a stalemate. We’ve drifted between 81–82% since 2010 with little sign of progress. 

We’ve reached a point where the next steps of progress will only come as a result of individuals doing their part to recognize and change the inequality in their own environments. Luckily, there has been some progress in certain occupations. It’s certainly not across-the-board progress, but there are a few things to be hopeful about.

The industry pay gap

Industries with the smallest pay gap

Rank
Occupation
% more that females earn compared to males
1Producers and directors6%
2Office and administrative support workers5%
3Bus drivers2%
4Wholesale and retail buyer2%
5Fast food and counter workers2%

Industries with the largest pay gap

Rank
Occupation
% less that females earn compared to males
1Legal occupations45%
2Medical scientists35%
3Financial managers34%
4First-line supervisors of housekeeping and janitorial workers34%
5Credit counselors and loan officers32%

There are actually a few occupations with gaps that favor women. 

Female producers and directors make 106% of what their male counterparts make. This percentage represents a much more reasonable gender pay gap. A couple percentage points difference in favor of either gender is how every occupation should be. 

Compare that to the pay gap among real estate brokers and sales agents where women only make 69% of what men make. A disparity this large is problematic and should be examined more closely for possible sexist practices. 

The takeaway

We’re at a crucial point in the history of the gender pay gap. The national income disparity between men and women is showing signs of stagnation. The only way to take the next crucial steps towards workplace equality is to change deeply ingrained practices and cultures that tend to promote men over equally deserving women. 

Where can we make these changes? In our communities, our workplaces, and our governments. We don’t want to have to report another year of stagnation in our next pay gap update. We have most of 2021 ahead of us. Let’s make it a year of progress for women’s equality.

Sources

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, “Earnings in the Past 12 Months.” Accessed February 23, 2021.
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.” Accessed February 23, 2021.
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Weekly and Hourly Earnings.” Accessed February 23, 2021.
  4. University of Iowa, “Working Day Payroll Calendar.” Accessed February 23, 2021.
Andrew Mosteller
Written by
Andrew Mosteller
For four years, Andrew has been writing copy to help business owners expand, manage, and advertise their unique brands. His upbringing in an entrepreneurial family nurtured a passion for small business at a young age. Andrew’s father, an equity fund manager, taught him the ins and outs of investment financing and owning and operating a successful business. Now he brings his expertise and experience to entrepreneurs as a regular contributor on Business.org.
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