The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Women in Tech

November 5, 2019, 4:00 PM UTC

If you’re female and looking for a job as, say, a software developer or systems analyst, here’s a tip: Forget about Silicon Valley and consider Washington, D.C., Baltimore, or Philadelphia instead. Those are three U.S. metro areas where women in tech are thriving—and where the wage gap between male and female techies is slimmest.

In its fifth annual study on this subject, personal finance site SmartAsset analyzed Census data for 58 cities with populations of at least 200,000 and ranked them according to four criteria: women as a percentage of the current tech workforce; the gender pay gap in each place; the affordability of housing (the median earnings of women minus the median cost of renting or buying a home); and growth in overall tech employment.

Northern California “didn’t even rank in the top half” of this list, notes AJ Smith, SmartAsset’s vice president of financial education. Small wonder: In top-ranked Washington, D.C., women make up 39% of the tech workforce and earn 95% of what their male peers make. The numbers for the Bay Area: 22% and 82% respectively.

Even a seemingly small gap in current wages matters over time, partly because settling for less pay now “can have a tremendous effect on people’s ability to save for retirement,” Smith notes, “or, ultimately, on whether they can retire at all.” Gulp.

Here are the 10 best cities for women in tech now, the percentage of the current tech workforce that is female, and the average woman’s pay as a percentage of the average man’s pay in the tech sector in each city.

City% womenPay gap
1. Washington, D.C.39%95%
2. Baltimore, Md.31%93%
3. Philadelphia, Pa.30%97%
4. Houston, Texas26%99%
5. Arlington, Va.33%87%
6. Albuquerque, N.M.30%95%
7. Kansas City, Mo.29%89%
8. Durham, N.C.29%88%
9. Long Beach, Calif.22%115%
10. St. Paul, Minn.28%90%

Tied for 11th place: Detroit, with a tech workforce that’s 40% female, where women earn 93% of men’s pay; and Louisville, Ky., where those figures come in at 27% and 92%.

Because SmartAsset’s ranking weighs four different measures of how women are faring in each place, it shows some intriguing results. Long Beach, for instance, has the lowest proportion of female tech employees of any city in the 10 best, and it’s the only place in the country where women earn more than their male counterparts (115%). Seen strictly through the lens of income minus housing costs, however, six cities on the whole list of 58 outrank Long Beach—including Jersey City, N.J., Seattle, and Plano, Texas.

Note to employers, tech and otherwise, in these retention-conscious times: If you want your employees to be happier about working for you—hence more likely to turn down other job offers—hiring and promoting more women seems to help. Compensation consultants Willis Towers Watson recently polled 1.7 million staffers at 32 big U.S. companies and found that the ones that develop and promote women “generate more favorable employee views, especially of senior leadership” across a whole range of topics than those that don’t, the survey shows—especially when women make up at least one-third of a firm’s highest-paid leaders.

“Companies that are making a push toward gender diversity are seeing a meaningful, positive impact on employee attitudes,” notes Laura Sejen, a Willis Towers Watson managing director. It pays to walk the talk.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—New grad? Career changer? Think about temp work
—What the best workplaces in the world have in common
—How to create benchmarks when you work for yourself
—5 proven ways to decrease stress at work
—Ready to jump at that great job offer? Read this first
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