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Women and the Economy: A Brief Analysis of the Gender Wage Gap


It’s an unfortunate reality: on average, women earn 80% of what men do in the United States and 86% in New York City. While the wage gap is smaller than the national average, it has remained stagnant over recent years.

The graph below explores the average wage women earn per industry, along with the gender wage gap within that sector.

Inequality in pay can be explained by looking at two sets of factors that we’re calling (1) direct issues and (2) systemic issues. Direct issues are factors that include women not being promoted or valued at the same rates as their male counterparts. Systemic issues are best reflected in professional industries (e.g. healthcare, finance) which have among the highest wage gaps by gender, likely resulting from women not being allowed opportunities to train for the high earning positions within these sectors. The reverse can be seen in the construction industry where positions less likely to attract women are the lower paying positions.

We study women’s activity in the labor force by looking at shares of female employment by industry. Women have made gains in the Transportation and Construction industries in recent years, the latter of which women comprise over 20% of jobs in New York City.  Drops in the share of women working in Agriculture & Mining have been paired with slow but steady growth across many other sectors, including Management, Real Estate, Arts & Sciences, and Service.

As you can see in the graph below, most industries are approaching the 50% Labor Share benchmark, meaning that the total workforce is evenly split between the genders.

Women make up a whopping 71.4% of employees in Healthcare, the highest for women in any industry (and the mark furthest to the right). The potential of major legislation disrupting the healthcare industry means that women will be disproportionately affected both in providing care and receiving it. National policies that seek to diminish the role of healthcare and the size of the healthcare industry are, perhaps unintentionally, going to harm the women of New York City – and that is not an “alternative fact.”

In the past several years, it is clear that female leadership in business is on the rise. In 2015, the 35,368 female entrepreneurs made up over 26% of entrepreneurs in the city, up from 21% from 2013. While total entrepreneurship has risen 5% over this period, the number of female entrepreneurs is up almost 30%; evidence that increased opportunity for female leadership is being taken advantage of. The rise in female entrepreneurship is especially pronounced in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where the number of female entrepreneurs has boomed by 60% and 37% respectively. In Staten Island, women make up almost 40% of all entrepreneurs – the highest of any borough.

The rise in female entrepreneurship has been paired with an increase in wages for female entrepreneurs. In 2013, female entrepreneurs made almost $24,000/year less on average than their male counterparts (sixty-four cents on every dollar). In 2015, female entrepreneur’s wages rose to over $50,000/year, and the wage gap has been slashed in half: female entrepreneurs are now making 83% of male entrepreneurs.

While women still face systemic obstacles and a stagnant gender wage gap, the recent growth of female entrepreneurs is an encouraging sign of New York City’s road to gender equality.

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