One twist on the gender pay gap -- or when women earn less for the same work as men -- is that higher-paid women are actually hit harder by the phenomenon than their lower-paid counterparts.
That disparity is evident in the top-paying jobs for men and women, as measured by data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The highest-paying professions for women provide considerably lower paychecks than those earned in the top-paying careers for men. In several fields, the pay gap is wider than the national average, which shows the pay hit that women face even in high-achieving professional fields.
Economists studying the issue have found that -- even when controlled for education, experience and profession -- women in the U.S. are paid less than men. Along with women who work in highly paid fields, the worst hit are women with children, older women and women of color, the Economic Policy Institute found in a report published last month.
The overall gender pay gap is about 80 cents to every $1 earned by men, but women at the top of the wage-distribution spectrum earn just 74 cents for every $1 paid to their male counterparts, the study found.
"Men are paid more in nearly every occupation, and people aren't biased against men in most occupations, except in nursing and for child-care workers," said Catherine Hill, vice president for research at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a group that promotes equity and education for women and girls.
She added, "At the very highest levels, we think there is prejudice against women as leaders compared with their overall competency."
Wages for lower-paid women are supported by minimum wage laws, which ensure that all workers at the baseline pay will earn the same regardless of gender. Some middle-income jobs with union protections also help narrow the pay gap, while employers that offer wage transparency -- such as government agencies -- also tend to have smaller gender wage gaps.
Yet most top-paying professions lack those mechanisms to help trim the pay gap, while women are also less likely to negotiate for higher pay than men, which can hinder them throughout their careers, said Cameron Huddleston, a columnist at GoBankingRates.
Some lawmakers are debating how pay history may hinder women from achieving wage equity with men. Earlier this year, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law that bars employers from asking applicants how much they earned in their previous job, with the idea that it could break a cycle of unfair pay for women and people of color.
Read on to learn about the seven top paying jobs for men and women.