America in 1960 looked like a different country in a lot of ways — including the fashion, the music and the cigarette consumption. It was also a drastically different place for working women, who in many industries earned about half the wages that men did.
In the last 56 years, things have become a lot more equal for working women. But some industries still lag behind.
Max Galka, who runs the blog Metrocosm, has created a fascinating visualization that shows how earnings for women have changed since 1960, using official data on full-time workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey.
The graphic below will seem a little complex at first, but it's not hard to understand once explained. Each circle represents a different job — secretary, scientist, lawyer, etc. The size of the circle indicates how many Americans are employed in the job, while the color of the circle shows what industry that job is in.
The horizontal axis shows the percent of the labor force in that job that is female. In other words, jobs toward the left side of the graphic — truck driver, construction worker, etc. — have few women employed in them. The jobs toward the right side of the graphic — secretary, nurse, etc. — are dominated by women.
Finally, the vertical axis shows the wage gap, women's average earnings in that job as a percentage of men's. Jobs that are toward the bottom of the graph pay men a lot more than they pay women, while those toward the top pay more equally.
As you watch the animation, two trends become clear. First, most of the circles move toward the top of the graph over time, indicating that the gap between what men make and what women make is closing in many occupations.
Second, many of the circles move from the extreme left side or extreme right side of the graph toward the middle. This shows that many jobs change from being very segregated by sex to having more of a mix of male and female employees.
The static graph below shows what things looked like in 1960. It's clear that, at that time, most jobs were either viewed as "men's jobs" — lawyer, scientist, engineer, construction worker — or "women's jobs" — nurse, secretary and waitress. Cooks were among the most mixed occupation at the time, with about 60 percent women and 40 percent men.
By 1978, some of the male jobs, especially real estate sales and accounting, have started to move toward the middle, indicating a rising number of female employees. Things are starting to change for women in the workforce, though the wage gap hasn't budged much yet.
By 1990, the wage gap looks a lot different. It really started to narrow in the 1980s and 1990s, when women's real earnings rose sharply as men's earnings fluctuated, as my colleague Ylan Mui has written.
Workplaces are becoming much more mixed as well. By 1990, nearly half of all cooks, real estate salespeople and accountants are women, while substantially more women are developers, insurance salespeople and lawyers. A few more men are working as waiters as well.
The same trend continues to the year 2000. Most jobs have moved toward the top and center of the graphic, indicating that the wage gap is falling, and the work places are more mixed. Yet note that male dominated fields, such as construction, truck driving and engineering, have barely budged from the left side of the graphic.
As you may notice in the animated gif above, progress toward closing the wage gap stalls in some industries in the last decade. In fact, women's average wages grow only a little between 2003 and 2013 when adjusted for inflation, due partly to the negative impact of the Great Recession on historically female jobs, such as teacher and clerical worker.
By now, some occupations have "switched genders" compared with 1960 — more women work as accountants, and more men work as cooks.
You can probably see that the picture in 2014 resembles kind of a "V" shape. Galka said he finds this surprising, since it means that the jobs that are actually the most mixed in terms of gender — those in the middle, like real estate sales, insurance, and financial services — actually have the biggest wage gap. In contrast, those jobs that are heavily male or female dominated tend to have a smaller wage gap overall.
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