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The Best U.S. Cities For Working Women

Find out where women are making the most progress in terms of salary and making as much as their male counterparts.

Somehow, equal pay for women is still an issue; legislation is being passed as I write this to ease the gender pay gap. But the problem isn’t equal. For the 49.3% of U.S. workers that are women, certain cities and metro areas are far more likely than others to yield a fair work environment.

Financial information company NerdWallet has rounded up a list of the best small, medium, and large U.S. cities for women in the workforce, based on the population growth rate, whether women earn high overall salaries, and whether they earn as much as men. "We used population growth to weed out [shrinking] cities like Detroit. That isn’t specific to women, but workers in general," explains Divya Raghavan, a NerdWallet analyst.

In all of the rankings—small, medium, and large cities—California gets at least two spots in the top five. In the small cities list, Napa takes first place, with a median income for full-time female workers of $46,949, women earning 91.60% of men’s salaries, and a 0.90% population growth. Rounding out the top five are Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA; Auburn-Opelika, AL; Charlottesville, VA; and Santa Rosa, CA.

The best medium-sized city for female workers is Durham-Chapel Hill, NC, which has a medium income for women of $41,736, 1.4% population growth, and women earning 93.50% as percentage of men’s earnings. The rest of the top five: Oxnard, CA; Bridgeport, CT; Stockton, CA; and Madison, WI.

Washington D.C. is the best large city for women employees—it has a median salary of $55,688, women earn 81.90% as much as men, and it has a growth rate of 1.70%. After D.C. comes San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Austin, TX; and Dallas-Forth Worth, TX.

Raghavan doesn’t list every every metro area in her blog post on the analysis, but she tells me that all of them were analyzed based on census data. The worst-performing areas are mostly small cities. They include Wheeling, WV, Steubenville, OH, Jackson, TN, and Casper, WY. Casper is particularly bad; women make just 55% of what men earn in the city.

Many of the top cities on the list have strong health care and technology sectors. That’s not a coincidence. In a previous analysis, Raghavan found that computer support specialists and medical scientists have some of the highest rates of fair pay in any profession. The lowest? Pretty much anything in the notoriously sexist financial industry.

Check out Raghavan’s full list of the top metro areas here.

Add New Comment


  • pandy

    there's NO WAY that napa california is one of the best small cities for women to obtain the wage of
    $49k inside of! most of the people that see this median?and better $ that LIVE IN napa-have always drew that median-and bigger money outside of napa-and commute the dollars into napa, and to boot, napa avg apartment rental is over $1,500, never mind making this amount put to a mortgage,
    then food and if especially single-pay more yearly tax.
    so to say the least-your stats about napa are RIDICULOUS!! 

  • HL

    this article was disappointing, those median wages are way too low to be meaningful. earning $50k-$55k/year as a woman in the bay area would mean that you are still struggling. 

  • Rob

    These numbers are quite ridiculous. Whenever you compare the wages across genders, do also take into account job functions and industry. Men tend to dominate areas like engineering, sales and finance... all high paying functions. Women tend to gravitate towards humanities that pays less. There is no discrimination. 

    The only way to reduce the pay gap is get more women to do the tough and grueling jobs where you have to work 80 hour weeks, be on the road 80% of the time and bear heavy stress.

  • Karin

    Rob, you seem bright, passionate and ill-informed. Check in with some of your female peers to assess if there is pay equity, I think you will be surprised at what you learn, if in fact you care to explore this issue a bit. You are likely correct when you suggest that women aren't doing the manual labor jobs at the same rate as our male counterparts, but in markets where there are tech jobs, there is still disparity. I want to be paid a fair wage for the work I do, comparably to my peers, all my is that simple. I ask for nothing except to be paid equitably...

  • FamilyLover

    Anyone can come here and make a comment about the analysis or question why they used median instead of mean, but I pose this question related to a parallel that might be found.  It would be interesting to see the research of these same areas and cities where these higher median jobs are compared to the rates of divorce and child dilinquency or crime due to homes where both parents work full time and don't take care of their families.  Just a thought to all the people who think equal pay in jobs is the most important thing to the fabric of society.  Just a thought. 

  • math is hard

    Did this study control for position and job performance? If not, it's just a bunch of meaningless numbers.