5 professions ruled by women

Updated: Mar 11, 2013 10:36 AM UTC

Ideally, gender wouldn't affect the jobs people train for and get, or how they are compensated. But we're certainly not there yet. At the same time, certain American jobs have shifted from majority male to majority female over the past few decades. Here are five professions that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women rule.

Pharmacists

The first North American pharmacy school, The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, was founded in 1821. The first woman didn't graduate from the school until 1883, when Susan Hayhurst received her degree. Later on, she led the pharmaceutical department of the Women's Hospital of Philadelphia. Every class following Hayhurst graduated at least one woman.

The pharmacy student population skewed male for quite some time. As recently as 1983, only 27% of pharmacists were women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But over the past 30 years or so, the gender breakdown has shifted. As of fall 2011, 60% of students enrolled in pharmacy professional degree programs were women, according to the American Association of colleges of Pharmacy. In 2012, women made up 54% of practicing pharmacists nationwide.

Accountants

In 1896, New York issued the first official qualification test for certified public accountants. Three years later, Christine Ross, who was born in Nova Scotia, became the first certified female accountant in the United States. For years after Ross gained her certificate, it was tough for women to enter the field.

As of 1983, women began to gain ground in the profession, making up 39% of accountants in the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2012, 60% of accountants were women. That's not to say that all hurdles have been removed -- as of 2011, only 21% of partners at accounting firms were women, according to a 2012 report from Catalyst.

Physician assistants

Duke University's Eugene Stead launched the first physician assistant's program in 1965 to address two problems. On the one hand, there was a shortage of primary care physicians across the country. On the other, men were leaving the military with medical training and no clear way to apply it to civilian life. In 1975, an independent organization called the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants was founded to oversee certification for the profession.

In the '60s and '70s, most PA's were men, but the ratio has shifted. In 1983, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data says that about 35% of physician assistants in the country were women. Today, roughly 70% of PA's are women. Part of that might have to do with the fact that it is more lucrative, on average, for women to become PA's than doctors. A 2012 Yale study suggested that female PA's might end up earning more than women doctors, given the cost of education and the wage gap between male and female physicians.

Photographers

Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, and Cindy Sherman are household names to the art-friendly. But while women have trained as great photographers since the turn of the 20th century, photography has been a predominately male profession. In 1983, only 20% of photographers were women.

Today, the gender balance in the job is about 50/50, according to a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. That 50/50 split does not extend to pay, though. According to a report released in 2008 by the National Endowment for the Arts, the median income for male photographers, as of 2005, was $35,000. The median income for female photographers was less than half as much, $16,300.

Bartenders

Bartending was among the many professions that women took on when men were drafted to fight in World War II. Upon returning home, however, soldiers wanted their old jobs back, and they successfully lobbied for laws in several states that banned women from tending bar. In fact, California's law prohibiting female bartenders was only repealed in 1971. As of 1983, almost half of all bartenders were female, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, while the restaurant industry is male-dominated, there are more female barkeeps than men, nationwide. About 60% of American bartenders are women, according to a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The trade, overall, is becoming increasingly technical, thanks to the rise of the cocktail and the modern mixology movement.