Best Places for Women in the Workforce



As of 2012, women make up 49.3% of all U.S. workers, and 41.4% of mothers (including working wives as well as single mothers) are the main breadwinners of their household.  With the current economic state, many households are finding that they need two incomes to support their families.  NerdWallet took a closer look at metro areas with characteristics that support working women, including a growing economy, a small gender pay gap and robust salaries.

NerdWallet calculated the best places for women in the workforce by answering the following questions:

1.    Do women earn high salaries? Metro areas with a higher median salary for full-time, year-round female employees received a higher overall score.

2.    Do women earn as much as men? We included women’s pay as a percentage of men’s pay to assess the size of the gender pay gap as well as the presence of women in high-paying industries.

3.    Is the city growing? Population growth was included in this analysis to assess the long-term growth potential of the region—people want to work in growing cities where there will be increased job potential in the future. 

We separated the list into large, medium and small metro areas to find places that appeal to all.

Best small cities for women in the workforce

 1.    Napa, CA

Known for its wine, Napa also boasts a low gender pay gap and a high median salary for women.  This growing city is great for those who work in tourism and healthcare.

2.    Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA

Hinesville and Fort Stewart’s coastal streams and lush woods make it a great citiy for nature lovers, and the metro area’s rapid growth means working residents have a bright future in the city.

3.    Auburn-Opelika, AL

A college town, Auburn has an abundance of educated, academically-minded residents, and the small gender pay gap and high population growth make this an exceptionally good city for working women.  Known as “The Loveliest Village on the Plains,” the city is known for its manufacturing and research firms.

4.    Charlottesville, VA

The hometown of two U.S. Presidents (Jefferson and Monroe) as well as the University of Virginia, Charlottesville is known for its excellent research facilities affiliated with the university.  The city is near to Shenandoah National Park, and residents enjoy a high median salary for women as well as proximity to nature reserves.

5.    Santa Rosa, CA

The Santa Rosa-Petaluma metro area is the urban center of Sonoma’s world-renowned wine country.  The area offers wildlife corridors of the Santa Rosa Creek as well as a high median salary for women and low gender pay gap.  Top employers in the area include Kaiser Permanente and the St. Joseph Health System, and both companies employ many in the burgeoning healthcare industry.

Rank Metro area Median earnings for female full-time, year-round workers Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings Population growth Overall score for working women
1 Napa, CA $46,949 91.60% 0.90% 63.7
2 Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA $31,962 85.20% 4.10% 63.2
3 Auburn-Opelika, AL $39,802 91.10% 1.90% 62
4 Charlottesville, VA $45,486 89.60% 0.90% 61.1
5 Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA $46,368 90.00% 0.70% 60.8
6 Olympia, WA $46,158 83.90% 1.40% 60.7
7 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $46,422 89.10% 0.60% 59.4
8 Salinas, CA $37,354 94.90% 1.30% 58.7
9 Madera-Chowchilla, CA $33,507 102.40% 1.00% 57.8
10 Trenton-Ewing, NJ $51,404 83.30% 0.00% 57.4

Best medium-sized cities for women in the workforce

1.    Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

Home to Duke University and the University of North Carolina, the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area is rich in research opportunities and university-related jobs.  Women earn 93.5% of what men earn, and the city’s steadily growing population promises a great future for those living there.

2.    Oxnard, CA

Many Oxnard residents work at Oxnard College and the other nearby universities, and this beachfront town also boasts a high median salary for women and steady population growth.

3.    Bridgeport, CT

The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area is home to many large companies, including WWE, UBS and Tasty Bite.  Female residents earn a relatively high median salary, and the area is home to several universities.

4.    Stockton, CA

Although Stockton has had bad press recently, the city remains a great place for working women.  With jobs in the telecommunications and manufacturing industries, residents here benefit from Stockton’s low cost of living compared to nearby San Francisco and Sacramento.

5.    Madison, WI

A college town, Madison offers jobs in the Wisconsin state government as well as through the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  An emerging tech hub, Madison is making great strides in healthcare and biotechnology.

Rank Metro area Median earnings for female full-time, year-round workers Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings Population growth Overall score for working women
1 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $41,736 93.50% 1.40% 62.6
2 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $46,652 85.10% 0.80% 58.1
3 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $52,037 72.30% 0.80% 55.2
4 Stockton, CA $39,194 87.20% 1.20% 54.8
5 Madison, WI $41,036 81.80% 1.20% 52.6
6 Fresno, CA $35,800 89.50% 1.00% 51.8
7 El Paso, TX $29,218 86.80% 2.10% 49.5
8 New Haven-Milford, CT $45,539 81.30% -0.20% 49
9 Worcester, MA $44,662 78.20% 0.20% 48.3
10 North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL $35,134 87.10% 0.80% 48.2

Best big cities for women in the workforce

1.    Washington, DC

DC women benefit from a high median salary and high population growth.  Politically-minded women will find job opportunities on Capitol Hill, and the tourism industry is booming as well.  Home to several universities, DC offers plenty of research resources as well.

2.    San Francisco, CA

Known for its tech jobs, San Franciscans benefit from a high median salary and steady population growth.  Muir Woods and Yosemite National Park are nearby, making nature easily accessible.

3.    San Jose, CA

Nestled in Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to many tech companies, including Adobe, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.  Sports fans will enjoy the Bay Area’s many teams, including the San Jose Sharks, and residents earn a high median salary as well.

4.    Austin, TX

Austin’s rapid growth makes it a great city for job seekers and women in the workforce.  An emerging tech hub, Austin has plenty of jobs in the tech industry or at the University of Texas.

5.    Dallas-Forth Worth, TX

The Silicon Prairie is home to many telecommunications and information technology firms, and the area’s low cost of living and rapid population growth give the area great future prospects.

Rank Metro area Median earnings for female full-time, year-round workers Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings Population growth Overall score for working women
1 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC $55,688 81.90% 1.70% 70.5
2 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA $52,301 84.00% 1.10% 65
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $55,615 76.90% 1.30% 64.7
4 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX $40,144 82.80% 3.20% 64.3
5 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX $39,432 84.60% 2.00% 57.6
6 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA $40,695 91.70% 0.80% 56.7
7 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO $42,260 80.50% 1.80% 56.4
8 Raleigh-Cary, NC $41,285 77.10% 2.30% 56.4
9 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA $46,642 84.70% 0.50% 56.3
10 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA $43,957 84.20% 1.00% 56.2


The overall score for women in the workforce was calculated from the following factors:

  1. Median salary for full-time, year-round female employees
  2. Women’s pay as a percentage of men’s pay for full-time, year-round workers
  3. Population growth from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012

366 metro areas were included in this analysis.  Data was obtained from the U.S. Census

  • Kate Kesilis

    You didn’t figure cost of living into those salaries, did you?

  • Amrithaa

    Can you please share this data? I’d like to understand it better.. Maybe there’s a state-wise aggregate that makes more sense than a county/city wise selection of the “top”?

  • Sharena Akers

    I was disappointed to see that Seattle isn’t on the list. I figured a more progressive city would fare better in terms of gender equality in salaries.

  • Grace S.

    What level of experience are you matching these salaries to? Can you please share that data?