"The average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns."
That is the one-dimensional theory of the gender-pay gap. Even if it's correct (and it might not be), it captures the complex reality of pay inequality the way a spot of paint can stand in for a mural.
The gender wage gap is both growing and shrinking, depending on where you look, when you look, and how you measure it. As you move across the decades, you'll see that Millennial women are making closer to their male peers than previous generations. But as you look within careers, you'll see that women fall behind men as you move higher up the corporate ladder. As you look across the country, you'll see hundreds of competing stories. For example, the pay gap closed by 10 percentage points in Wisconsin between 2005 and 2012, but it's actually grown slightly in Texas, California, and Colorado in that time.
Most interesting—and most crucial—is what happens when you sort by job. According to BLS data I studied, women earn 76 cents to the dollar in the 10 highest-paying jobs with statistically significant data comparing men's and women's wages in 2010. Those jobs include chief executives, surgeons, lawyers, and personal finance advisors (which registered an astonishing gender-gap of 42 percent). But among the ten lowest-paying jobs, including maids and miscellaneous agricultural workers, the gender gap is less than ten cents to the dollar.