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Women outearn men in just a handful of U.S. cities, report finds—and not by a lot

The more things change…you know the rest.

Despite enormous strides across sectors, women still earn about 83 cents on the man’s dollar—yes, even now. The pandemic didn’t help matters; it ended up sidelining women, disproportionately yanking mothers out of the workforce, often permanently, and most jobs failed to provide adequate child care support. The U.S. remains the only nation without guaranteed paid parental leave—save for Papua New Guinea. 

While men outnumber women in the workforce (even though women outnumber men on college campuses), in a handful of cities, women edge them out, albeit very narrowly. In a new analysis, GOBankingRates pored over Census data and studied U.S. cities with at least 20,000 inhabitants and drew up a list of those in which women outearn men. They tabulated just 40 cities in their report, and in each of them, women’s incomes just barely eke past men’s. 

Oakland, just outside San Francisco, is the largest city in the country where women earn more than men, GOBankingRates found. Nearly 360,000 people live in Oakland, and its bustling business opportunities and proximity to Silicon Valley make it a strong choice for many working women. Even better: Women in Oakland bring in a median salary of $68,200; men there earn just slightly less: $68,100.

“The biggest takeaway from our research is that women are outearning men in cities with relatively low median salaries,” Andrew Murray, lead content data researcher at GOBankingRates, tells Fortune in a statement. For instance, he notes that Jacksonville, North Carolina, ranked first in the report; women there outearn men by nearly 21%. But women’s median salary there is just $32,000, against men’s median $27,000—hardly worth celebrating. In the cities where women earn much higher base salaries, Murray says, “we found that men earn between 60% and 70% more.”

Take Los Altos, California; women there notch the highest salaries of those in any city GOBankingRates analyzed: $150,000, on average. But Los Altos men earn a median of $216,000—roughly 70% higher. “Ultimately, this reinforces the idea that there tends to be less of a gender pay gap among lower wage workers compared to higher end workers,” Murray says.

After Los Altos, women earn the most in Saratoga, Calif., ($140,000), McLean, Va., ($137,000), San Carlos, Calif., ($137,000) and Wellesley, Mass. ($130,000). But those cities didn’t make GOBankingRates’s official ranking, because men vastly outearn women in each of them.

The story is even grim in good old Jacksonville, N.C. As Murray explained, many high-ranked cities are home to large numbers of government employees—or are near a military base. Even though they’re more equal, jobs in those industries often pay substantially less across the board than private-sector jobs. “For example, Jacksonville, N.C. is home to a Marine Corps base, while several of the Maryland cities that ranked highest on our list are just outside Washington, D.C., and have high concentrations of government employees,” Murray said. 

The problem begins in undergrad, if not long before. Nearly 80% of college graduates with STEM degrees—recently deemed by the Federal Reserve as the degrees that lead to the highest-paying careers—are male. As a result, mostly men are working in high-paying industries. All the while, workers in traditionally female roles, like teaching and caregiving, are consistently and insultingly underpaid. 

“The fact that the male-female gender gap in lucrative college majors remains so vast after decades of women outnumbering men on college campuses suggests that women are still playing catch-up,” Alex Gailey, an analyst at Bankrate, wrote in a recent report on the topic.

Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman put her feelings about the devastating, enduring pay gap a bit more plainly in an interview last weekend: “I’m very aware that if I was Oliver Colman, I would be earning a f—k of a lot more than I am.”

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