by Rachel Vilsack

Women are a significant part of the workforce in Minnesota. In fact, Minnesota women have the third highest labor force participation rate in the county and one in four Minnesota businesses is owned by a woman.


While men and women work in the same industries and even the same occupations, their pay may not be equal. In 2010, the median annual earnings for men was $40,645, compared to $28,721 for women. That means women’s median earnings were 71 percent of men’s median earnings, or 71 cents for every dollar men earn. 


Of course, wages may be different for many reasons. People work different hours, have different educational levels, and have different jobs. That does account for some of the wage gap. If we look only at earnings of those who worked full time, year round in Minnesota, women’s earning would be 79 percent of men’s earnings in 2010.


Education Increases the Wage Gap

You might be surprised to learn that education often increases the gap in men’s and women’s earnings. Women now earn the majority of post-secondary degrees at alllevels in Minnesota. However, Minnesota women with professional degrees (doctors, lawyers) and master’s degrees face larger pay gaps (.pdf) than women with less education ($0.67 and $0.75 on a man’s dollar, respectively). This effect is significant. It results in an estimated $1 million lifetime loss in wages, while women with graduate degrees will earn $2 million less over their lifetime.


Wage Gaps in Every Occupation

In Minnesota and nationally, the wage gap exists in every occupation, including those dominated by women. The table below shows the occupational groups and 2010 earnings of men and women in Minnesota, as collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.


Minnesota Women in Labor Force Income Table


While Minnesota women make up the highest percentage of workers employed in health care support (85.8 percent), personal care and service (77.5 percent), and health care practitioners and technical workers (77.4 percent), their annual median earnings are less than men’s earnings in the same occupation.


The largest difference in the women’s to men’s earnings ratio was for people employed in farming, fishing and forestry occupations, where women's earnings are just 42.2 percent of their male counterparts. However, the earnings between women and men were almost equal in three occupational groups:


  • Office and administrative support (96.2 percent)
  • Computer and mathematical (90.2 percent)
  • Community and social services (89.0 percent)


How Do We Close the Wage Gap?

Be informed. The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women and Public Policy compiled a status report (.pdf) of women and girls in Minnesota in 2010, looking at a variety of social, economic, and demographic characteristics.


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Rachel Vilsack ( is the Coordinator of Special Projects for Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.