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The small business gender pay gap by industry
Reports Employers

The small business gender pay gap by industry

Qian Liu, PhD

Last month, we released two studies to illustrate what the gender pay gap looks like at small businesses—those that employ between 0-100 people. More than 7,500 small businesses—that collectively employ tens of thousands of people—offer their employees a Guideline 401(k), so we have a unique vantage point of small business compensation.

After looking at the anonymized compensation data of Guideline 401(k) plan participants, we found that women who work at a small business make 70 cents on every dollar earned by a man. In addition to finding correlations between age and marital status and the pay gap—if a woman is older and/or married, she earns even less compared to a man—we also found that the gap can vary greatly by geographic region. In some areas, like Salt Lake City, the gap is particularly bad—63 cents on the dollar—while in others, like Miami—88 cents on the dollar—the gap is far more narrow.

Gender pay gap by industry

For our final installment in the series, we’re revealing what the gap looks like by industry. In the image below, you’ll see how much women earn for every dollar earned by a man in each major industry. As you can see, it’s a wide spread. Women in manufacturing earn 68 cents on the dollar, while women in transportation and logistics earn 99 cents on the dollar, for example.

Small business gender pay gap by industry

This brings our small business gender pay gap series to a close. We hope revealing what this data looks like in such a powerful sector of the U.S. economy is helpful in bringing awareness to how much work still needs to be done to achieve compensation equity.

As we mentioned previously, it unfortunately shouldn’t be surprising that the gender pay gap among small businesses is so significant, regardless of how you look at it—marital status, geography, and or industry. But just because it’s not surprising, that doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing.

The good news is there are things you can do to help. There’s a lot of content available on this topic, but our friends at ELLEVEST put together some great, tactical ideas for helping realize change. Actions like mentoring/sponsoring a young woman in your field, hiring (and promoting!) women for leadership positions, and supporting women-owned businesses can go a long way.


We analyzed anonymized compensation data of tens of thousands of non-owner employees who have worked at small businesses and participated in Guideline 401(k) plans. Gender is inferred by participants’ first names based on Popular Baby Names dataset from Social Security. Gender pay gap is defined as female median compensation divided by male median compensation. We used NAICS codes to determine which industry each small business belongs to.