Three years ago women were making significant strides in typically male-driven fields such as business, history and biological sciences. The best field with an above-average percentage of women in 2009 was healthcare followed by employment services. And although women had traditionally dominated the fields of education and psychology, more women than men pursued an MBA in recent years in order to make a mid-career job change.
Where are we now? According to jobs expert Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., the author of Best Jobs for the 21st Century, a woman will probably experience the most career success as a diagnosing medical doctor which includes optometrists, physicians and dentists. Shatkin didn’t just take into account the pay rate for these positions. He analyzed occupations with the highest satisfaction levels reported by women, based on the National Survey of College Graduates, and jobs with the strongest projected growth through 2020, tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor. These two factors, combined with the highest median annual earnings in 2011, showed that women in the role of diagnosing medical doctor reported very high job satisfaction. They receive a median salary of $121,000 a year with the bonus high job security. In 2013 there were nearly 80,000 job openings in this field with an expected growth of 27% by 2020.
What makes Shatkin’s findings more interesting is that women determined their satisfaction rates by evaluating several elements. Using their skills and abilities was their top criteria. This was followed by job security, communication between employees and upper management and finally salary. In contrast, men reported that salary was the leading factor contributing to a high level of satisfaction in their career. Shatkin also discovered that health professionals (including registered nurses, pharmacists and dieticians), non-practicing medical scientists, and psychologists closely follow the medical doctor field in satisfaction rankings.
However, two careers with the highest level of job satisfaction happened to be in two industries where women are the minority. Only 29% of actuaries and only 5% of petroleum engineers are female yet their job satisfaction levels are over 56%. Shatkin believes that this is because challenging the gender norms of traditional employment lends a sense of accomplishment to a woman’s feelings about her career. It may also indicate a strong personality well suited to the industry, making the position feel like a perfect fit for the female employee.
It’s clear that more and more women are seeking creative and challenging careers, making the investment in further education to boost their career paths. More so than their male counterparts. But there are still inequities in employment. For example, women earn 82% as much as their male peers only one year out of college. Inequality for the same type of work still exists, but the good news is that women in the workforce are still growing in number. If Shatkin’s findings are a good indication, this trend will only increase in the future.
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