Top 10 Occupations of Working Women

How Women Rank in Traditional "Female Jobs"

Smiling nurse holding medical record in examination room
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​Stereotypes hold true when it comes to the jobs that most women work. Asked to name the traditional careers typically pursued by women, most of us could easily come up with the jobs that employ the most women. Secretaries, nurses, and teachers top the list. Together, these three occupations provide jobs for around 12 percent of all working women.

Women in the Workforce

Working women are a sizable chunk of the population. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 million women age 16 and over were employed in 2016 in both full- and part-time jobs. That's nearly 60 percent of the female population.

In management, women are making great strides, accounting for nearly 40 percent of managers in the labor force. And yet, in 2014 it was reported that 4.8 percent of all women made an hourly rate at or below the federal minimum wage. That's almost 1.9 million women.

According to the 2015 "Women in the Labor Force: A Databook," 5.3 percent of women who are employed work more than one job and 5.3 percent were self-employed. Compare this to 4.5 percent of men with multiple jobs and 7.4 percent who are self-employed.

Traditional Occupations of Working Women

Looking at the top ten occupations that employ the most women, together they provide jobs for around 28% of the female workforce. 

The following table shows what those occupations are according to a 2008 report and with the updated 2016 statistics for comparison. One thing you might find surprising is the wage gap found in these traditionally "female jobs." The average weekly salary earned by women continues to fall behind that of their male colleagues.

Occupation 2016 Total Women Employed 2016 % Women Workers 2008 % Women Workers 2016 Average Weekly Salary
Secretaries & Administrative Assistants 2,595,000 94.6% 96.1%
$708 (men earn $831)
Registered Nurses 2,791,000 90.0% 91.7%
$1,143 (men earn $1261)
Teachers - Elementary & Middle School 2,231,000 78.5% 81.2% $981 (men earn $1126)
Cashiers 2,386,000 73.2% 75.5% $403 (men earn $475)
Retail Salespersons 1,603,000 48.4% 52.2% $514 (men earn $730)
Nursing, Psychatric, & Home Health Aides 1,813,000 88.1% 88.7% $498 (men earn $534)
First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers 1,447,000 44.1% 43.4% $630 (men earn $857)
Wait Staff ( waitresses) 1,459,000 70.0% 73.2% $441 (men earn $504)
Receptionists & Information Clerks 1,199,000 90.1% 93.6% $581 (men earn$600)
Bookkeeping, Accounting & Auditing Clerks 1,006,000 88.5% 91.4% $716 (men earn $790)

What Does the Future Hold?

The change in the demographics of America's labor force is changing slowly, but according to the U.S. Department of Labor, it's significant. It is projected that we will see a slowdown in growth and at the same time women will continue to make gains. 

In the 2002 report "A Century of Change: The U.S. Labor Force, 1950-2050," the Department of Labor notes that women have "increased their numbers at an extremely rapid pace in the past 50 years." It anticipates that growth to slow down from the 2.6 percent seen from 1950 to 2000 to 0.7 percent from 2000 to 2050.

While that report projects women making up 48 percent of the workforce in 2050, in 2016 we're sitting at 46.9 percent. If women continue to progress at even the projected 0.7 percent rate, we will have topped that 48 percent by 2020, 30 years earlier than projected just 16 years prior.

The future for working women looks bright and the prospects reach far beyond the traditional jobs for women.


  • "Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity." 2016. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
  • "Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex." 2016. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
  • "20 Leading Occupations of Employed Women: 2008 Annual Averages." 2009. Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor.
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Lowen, Linda. "Top 10 Occupations of Working Women." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2021, Lowen, Linda. (2021, August 9). Top 10 Occupations of Working Women. Retrieved from Lowen, Linda. "Top 10 Occupations of Working Women." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).