10 best cities for women business leaders
10 best cities for women business leaders
A woman in a conference room addressing a team of co-workers.
More women are running Fortune 500 companies today than ever before. Yet, the number of women helming America’s largest corporations is still surprisingly low – only 10%, according to Fortune. Zooming out further, women face a steeper climb up the hiring ladder than men. Research from McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, indicates that for every 100 men promoted to first-level management roles, only 87 women receive similar promotions. That said, the landscape for women in management isn’t the same across the U.S.
With this in mind, SmartAsset analyzed which cities are best for women in leadership. We compared 62 of the largest cities in the country across five metrics: gender pay gap in management occupations, income after housing costs, women as a percentage of management occupations, three-year management employment growth and the percentage of women-owned businesses. For more information on our data or how we compiled our rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
Buildings in downtown Detroit as seen from Hart Plaza.
- Detroit has the highest percentage of women in management. Women fill nearly six out of every 10 (58.49%) management positions in the Motor City, more than any other city we analyzed. Comparatively, women average nearly half (49.30%) of the management positions in the top 10 cities of our rankings. That average dives to 40.55% in the bottom 10 cities. And women in Gilbert, Arizona, hold the lowest percentage across our study – making up only 35.73% of management roles.
- Less than a quarter of businesses are owned by women. Women own only 21.49% of businesses across the 62 cities we analyzed. That percentage is highest in Anchorage, Alaska, where women own 26.44% of all businesses and lowest in Lincoln, Nebraska (14.06%).
- Gender pay gap leaves some women housing cost-burdened. On average, women who hold management positions in Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach in California, as well as Honolulu in Hawaii, spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Men in leadership roles in those cities earn more, and as a result, spend a smaller percentage of their income on housing than women in similar occupations.
Cities where women in business leadership roles thrive
An aerial view of downtown Oakland, California.
Though most of the country’s largest metropolitan cities ranked on the list, smaller cities like Oakland and St. Louis also had strong showings for where women business leaders find success.
1. Oakland, CA
Oakland ranks at the top of our study for women in leadership, thanks in part to the fact that they hold more than half (51.71%) of all management roles in the city. Only two other cities (Detroit and Philadelphia) have a higher percentage of women in management positions than Oakland. Additionally, women in leadership roles can expect to have $69,519 left after factoring in median housing expenses – seventh-most across our study. Oakland also has the eighth-smallest gender pay gap in management occupations, as women earn 85.44% of what men earn.
2. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento has our study’s smallest gender pay gap between men and women in management. Men in leadership roles in the California state capital earn 4.89% more than their female counterparts. Comparatively, women hold nearly half of all management roles (49.82%) in Sacramento, which is 10th-highest among the 62 cities in our study.
3. Baltimore, MD
Women in management roles in Baltimore earn almost 89 cents for every dollar that men earn. As a result, Baltimore has the fifth-smallest gender pay gap for management positions in our study. Charm City also has the fifth-highest percentage of women in management occupations (51.25%) study-wide.
4. Washington D.C.
Despite the District of Columbia’s high median housing costs ($21,804 per year), women in management occupations still have $75,676 (fourth-most) left after factoring in those expenses. The nation’s capital also has the sixth-highest percentage of women-owned businesses (24.62%). Additionally, women in the District of Columbia hold 50.20% of all management roles, the ninth-most across our study.
5. Philadelphia, PA
It may be the City of Brotherly Love, but women fill 51.81% of management occupations in Philadelphia, second-most among 62 cities in our study. Philadelphia also has the 12th-smallest gender pay gap in management, as women’s salaries make up 83.68% of men’s salaries in management occupations. Additionally, the city had the 12th-highest growth rate (20.68%) for management jobs between 2018 and 2021.
6. Boston, MA
In Boston, women hold 50.58% of management positions, which ranks seventh-highest across our study. While median housing costs in Boston are $1,883 per month, women in management occupations can expect to have $63,645 after accounting for housing expenses (ninth-most).
7. Portland, OR
Women in management positions earn 82.17% as much as men, which ranks as the 14th-smallest gender pay gap in our study. After paying for housing, women in management occupations can expect to have $55,436 left over (14th-most). Meanwhile, 22.62% of all businesses in the City of Roses are owned by women (16th-most).
8. St. Louis, MO
In St. Louis, women-owned businesses account for 24.84% of all businesses, which ranks third-most among the 62 cities we analyzed. The city also has the sixth-smallest gender pay gap in management occupations. Women in management positions in St. Louis earn 86.67% as much money as men do.
9. New York, NY
In New York, women in management occupations earn enough that they can expect to have $65,342 left over after paying for housing (eighth-most). The Big Apple also has the ninth-smallest gender pay gap in our study. Women working in management in New York earn 85.06% of what men earn.
10. Chicago, IL
After accounting for housing costs, women in management positions in Chicago have $60,182 left over (11th-most). The Windy City has also seen some of the best growth in recent years for management occupations. The city’s management employment rate increased 19.71% between 2018 and 2021, more than it did in 49 other cities in our study.
Data & methodology
A woman ascends a staircase in a modern glass building.
To find the best cities for women in leadership, SmartAsset looked at data for cities with at least 200,000 residents. We removed cities from our data set that did not have statistically reliable data (i.e. the margin of error for average earnings for women who work in management occupations or the number of women working in management occupations was greater than 10%) or unavailable data. Those two constraints left us with 62 cities, which we compared across the following five metrics:
- Gender pay gap in management occupations. This is the average earnings for women who work in management occupations as a percentage of the average earnings for men who work in management occupations. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 5-year American Community Survey.
- Income after housing costs. These are the median earnings for women who work in management after subtracting the median housing costs. Data on earnings comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 5-year American Community Survey. Data on housing costs comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
- Women as a percentage of the management workforce. This is the percentage of all management jobs held by women. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 5-year American Community Survey.
- Three-year management employment growth. This is the percentage change in management jobs from 2018 through 2021. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 and 2021 5-year American Community Surveys.
- Percentage of business owners who are women. This is the number of women-owned businesses with paid employees divided by the number of businesses with paid employees. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 Annual Business Survey and is at the metro area level.
We ranked each city in every metric, giving double weight to the following metrics: gender pay gap in management occupations, earnings after housing and women as a percentage of the management workforce. We gave full weight to the remaining two metrics, three-year management employment growth and the percentage of women-owned businesses.
Using those rankings, we found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking places first in our study while the city with the lowest average ranking places last.
This story originally appeared on SmartAsset and has been independently reviewed to meet journalistic standards.