Top cities for working women

By Matt Mayerle
Modified on February 7, 2024
top cities for working women

As of 2020, 57.4% of women in the United States are members of the country’s labor force. These 76 million women account for 47% of the working population.

Although their representation in the workforce is nearly equal, men and women are still separated by a frustratingly significant pay gap. Recent statistics from the U.S. department of labor report that women still earn about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Additionally, women continue to be underrepresented in senior leadership positions across nearly every industry.  

This reality makes it critical for women to find the best opportunities for employment and advancement. Before the most recent global pandemic, the number of women in the workforce was estimated to be on the rise. And as the economy continues to recover, working women will most likely find success in the cities and regions that provide optimal conditions for things like:  

Business Development. Only 19% of companies in the country are owned by women. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that number has been steadily increasing over the past decade, 

Strategic Leadership. Even though they are still in the minority of the overall workforce, women account for close to 52% of workers that are employed as managers and professionals. Women are highly represented in professions like health care (89% of registered nurses), and education (81% of elementary and middle school teachers).

Family Support. Of the women who are in the workplace, close to one-third of them (32%) are parents. As women continue to remain primarily responsible for household and family management, communities that provide accessible options for working women are all too important.  

women thrive in supportive cities

By analyzing relatable living conditions across the nation, CreditNinja has identified the major metropolitan areas that are ideal for working women to thrive. 

where working women live

#1  Alexandria, Virginia

Population: 159,428

Average Salary: $55,180

Alexandria is largely populated by professionals working in federal civil service, in the U.S. military, or government contractors. Of course, its largest employer is a government agency: The US Department of Defense. Additionally, Alexandria is the home of the US Patent and Trademark Office and the National Science Foundation. As a corporate and residential hub for one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Alexandria has opportunities for female advancement that are unrivaled in the nation. 

It is the only city on the list that has a majority of women (51.40%) holding the available positions in management. Additionally, over one-third (35%) of Alexandria’s businesses are women-owned. These statistics are only topped by the employment rate among women in Alexandria—a staggering 73%, easily the highest among the data gathered by the US Census Bureau. 

These impressive statistics are balanced by Alexandria’s moderate costs of living. Residents can expect to spend over a third (33%) of their salary on housing, and another 27% on any needed child care. However, the opportunities for advancement in Alexandria translate into high earnings, with 45% of working women earning more than $75,000 annually. 

#2  Arlington, Virginia

Population: 236,842

Average Salary $55,180

Situated close to Alexandria and directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C, Arlington has been placed at the top of many lists for its overall livability among U.S. cities. 

Because of its proximity to the nation’s capital, Arlington is the home of many government agencies including The Department of Defense, The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The number of employed women in Arlington is 73 %, which is well over the national average. 

Arlington-based working women in management positions (50.10%) is higher than the national average (47%). As of 2020, the median salary for Arlington working women is $61,048, and over half of those women (53%) reported an annual salary of $75,000 or more.  Additionally, 

the unemployment rate among women is at an incredible 2%, less than half of the national unemployment rate of 5.5 %.

In addition to its strong statistics for employment opportunities, Arlington is also one of the most affordable large cities in which to live and work on the East Coast. Working women contribute just 27% of their earnings to daycare, and use another 32% to cover housing costs. 

#3 Seattle, Washington

Population: 753,675

Average Salary $62,930

Seattle, Washington is a city and metropolitan area at the southern end of Puget Sound in the northwestern United States. It is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and currently the 15th largest city in the United States. The Seattle metropolitan area developed into a technology center from the 1980s onwards, with companies like Microsoft and Amazon being established in the region. With a metropolitan area population nearing 4 million people and a growth rate of 2.2%, Seattle was listed as the fastest-growing city in America in 2020.  

With this kind of growth, it’s no surprise that Seattle is full of opportunities for working women. 

In addition to having one of the highest average salaries for women in the country, it also boasts significant female leadership in government (41% of the state’s legislature) and business (36% ownership). Over two-thirds of Seattle women (66.2%) are employed, with 41% of them making over $75,000 per year. The city’s growth will most likely keep these numbers consistent even as the economy recovers from the pandemic-related recession.  

#4  Washington, D.C.

Population: 705,749

Average Salary: $83,099

The nation’s capital is one of the oldest metropolitan areas in the country, founded and planned specifically for lawmakers and officials to perform the functions of government. Today, it is at the center of a metropolis that spans three states, includes over six million residents, and is visited by millions more every year.    

When it comes to earning a high income, the D.C area is full of opportunities. Of all 80 cities reviewed, Washington has the highest average salary for women, at $83,000 per year. Nearly two-thirds of female residents (62.4%) are employed, with 41% reporting annual incomes of $75,000 or more. 

#5 Minneapolis, Minnesota

Population: 429,606

Average Salary: $50,074

Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest city, is often statistically paired with neighboring St. Paul in an area referred to as the “Twin Cities” region. Minneapolis is a center for commercial and industrial activity, with transportation, distribution, health care, and financial industries all present. 

Minneapolis rounds out the top five cities on the list with one of the highest employment rates for working women in the country (69%). Women also hold nearly half of the managerial positions in the city’s industries (46.9%), and own one-third (33%) of the businesses. Like Arlington, the female unemployment rate in Minneapolis (currently at 4.4%) is below the national average. 

#6 Madison, Wisconsin

Population: 321,488

Average Salary: $46,291

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and its fastest-growing city. Its economy relies on a diverse mix of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and its rapidly growing technology sector. Madison also has a long history of progressive political and cultural activity. It was the site of Wisconsin’s first protests against the Vietnam War, and it hosts a large LGBTQ population.

Madison boasts a large number of women-owned businesses (42%), a high female employment rate (69.2%), and has one of the lowest unemployment rates among women in the nation, at an incredible 2.5 %. 

The rest of the top 10 include: 

#7 Durham, North Carolina

Population: 321,488

Average Salary: $47,552

#8 San Francisco, California

Population: 881,549

Average Salary: $62,298

#9 Chandler, Arizona

Population: 261,165

Average Salary: $46,169

#10 Boston, Massachusetts

Population: 692,600

Average Salary: $66,042

Our Method 

To determine these ideal cities for working women, CreditNinja evaluated 80 major U.S. cities and their metropolitan areas across nine key indicators of environments in which women are most likely to find gainful employment and advancement opportunities. 

Moreover, research was also conducted to assess the number of women entrepreneurs and leaders in corporate and governmental roles—a factor that influences both business and lifestyle. Each city/metro area was also evaluated for its livability, by comparing the cost of living expenses against median salaries among female employees, professionals, and business owners.  

Overall, we looked at the nine following factors: 

  • Percentage of managerial positions held by women 
  • Percentage of legislative seats held women in each city’s state
  • Average (mean) salary for working women 
  • Percentage of women earning $75,000 or more 
  • Median earnings of female business leaders 
  • Percentage of businesses owned by women 
  • Average percentage of earnings needed for rent/housing 
  • Average percentage of earnings needed for child care 
  • Current unemployment rates 

These factors were then grouped into weighted categories: 

  • Employment: 30%
  • Sr. Managers & Legislators: 20%
  • Income: 25%
  • Ownership: 15%
  • Expenses: 10%

The data was then plotted on a 50-point scale, with our #1 rated city (Alexandria, VA) scoring 48.86. In comparison, our 80th ranked city (The Villages, FL) scored 19.86.

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