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Despite Gains, Diversity Imbalance Persists in Top Careers
Gallup Blog

Despite Gains, Diversity Imbalance Persists in Top Careers

by Kyle Christensen

A new report from Gallup and Amazon finds that U.S. careers offering the most overall economic opportunity and job security still have some ground to cover, in terms of achieving proportional representation relative to the workforce by race and gender.

While significant gains have been made over the past decade in the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in the nation’s top jobs, workers who are Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaskan Native remain highly underrepresented, while Asian and White workers remain overrepresented. Multiracial workers are represented in top jobs in line with their share of the workforce.

Women, on the other hand, have higher representation than men in 46 out of 111 top-scoring careers and have made steady progress in increasing their representation. Still, in 2021, women remain slightly underrepresented overall -- constituting 42.3% of workers in top-scoring jobs versus 44.0% of workers in all jobs. These findings are based on an analysis of the Gallup-Amazon Careers of the Future Index (CFI).

The CFI is a newly released public database designed to provide young adults and their advisers with transparent and useful data about the economic prospects of careers in the U.S. It also aims to inform industry and other stakeholders looking to invest in young adults’ career pathways. The CFI provides scores ranging from 1 to 100 for all 529 occupations used by the Census Bureau to classify work. Alongside these scores, the CFI database also displays U.S. Census Bureau trends on the gender and racial diversity of each career. These contextual data can be used to gain insight into progress made in eliminating the historical barriers to people in choosing whatever career best matches their interests and abilities, although the data do not take into account group differences in career-relevant factors, such as age, education and work experience.

The Census trends show that Black -- and, to an even greater extent, Hispanic and multiracial -- workers’ representation in high-scoring careers increased between 2010 and 2021, moving them closer to their proportions of the entire workforce. Meanwhile, American Indian/Alaskan Native workers’ likelihood of having a top-scoring job slightly decreased. However, except for multiracial workers, all of these groups remain underrepresented by a third or more compared with their representation in the entire workforce.

Analysis of gender proportionality trends over the same time is more complicated. Women saw an increase in top-scoring careers, in terms of the occupations that were able to be consistently classified between 2010 and 2021 -- they became slightly overrepresented in 2021 in those careers. However, the picture changes when one considers all jobs, including occupational titles that emerged between 2010 and 2021 -- largely in technology roles. Women remain underrepresented in top-scoring jobs when all careers are considered.


Changes in Racial Proportionality in Top Careers

For top-scoring careers on the CFI, Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Hispanic workers are currently underrepresented by 33%, 38%, and 43%, respectively. This disproportionality index measures how closely group occupation shares match group workforce shares. Disproportionality is the occupation’s percentage deviation from equal representation relative to each group’s workforce composition.


The data show that, as a whole, high-scoring CFI careers have diversified at a faster rate than low-scoring CFI careers. Racial and ethnic representation among chief executives, nurse practitioners, lawyers, project management specialists and managers across an array of fields/industries is roughly proportional to workforce shares of each racial and ethnic group.

Of particular note, the data show that the Hispanic share of workers increased since 2010 in 74 out of 78 top-ranking careers on the CFI with matching job titles in 2010 and 2021. These range from management to skilled workers to medical workers and social scientists, among others. The largest increases were for careers that include training and development managers, natural science managers, materials engineers, elevator installers and construction managers.

Forty-seven of the 78 top-scoring careers saw an increase in Black representation, though in only eight of them does the rate of Black employment match or exceed the proportion of Black adults in the full-time labor force. The largest increases in the share of Black workers occurred among emergency management directors, operations research analysts and actuaries. Of the top 10 high CFI careers seeing increased representation of Black workers, many are in engineering fields, including marine engineering, aerospace engineering and chemical engineering.

Nevertheless, racial distributions differ markedly for some specific jobs in the top tier, including surgeons, astronomers/physicists, physicians and other mathematical science occupations (which include data scientists). Dentists, optometrists and software developers are also highly disproportionate, in terms of race/ethnicity.

Changes in Gender Proportionality in Top Careers

Across the top-scoring jobs on the CFI, men are slightly overrepresented at 3.1%, while women are slightly underrepresented at -4.0%.

Of the 78 careers in the top quintile with data in 2010 and 2021, 46 became more proportionate by gender, though they took different paths to get there.

Notable gains in proportionality through expanded female representation include environmental engineers, financial analysts, dentists, biomedical engineers, lawyers, chief executives and chemical engineers. Altogether, 35 careers became more proportionate by gender because of rising female shares.

At the same time, 11 top-quintile careers became more gender diverse because more men entered careers previously dominated by women. These include radiation therapists, compensation and benefits managers, nurse practitioners and midwives, registered nurses, nurse anesthetists, and physical therapists. This may reflect diminishing gender stereotypes about certain career choices more than it indicates a breakdown of gender barriers to hiring.

Some careers saw a move away from equal representation, with 12 job titles with CFI scores of 80 or above seeing a drop in gender proportionality due to increased male representation. Those careers include marine engineers and naval architects, computer hardware engineers, actuaries, and sales engineers. On the other hand, 20 top-scoring careers became less proportionate because of rising female shares. These careers include optometrists, pharmacists, veterinarians and human resource managers, all of which saw gains in female shares from 2010 to 2021, despite female overrepresentation at the start.



In previous decades, women and Black workers in the United States and, to some extent, those from other racial and ethnic groups faced discrimination in the careers they were allowed to enter and advance in. This is well documented in the historical literature. Increased U.S. racial diversity and changes in culture and public policy have eliminated formal barriers to career development. Yet, informal barriers, cultural bias and other factors all complicate efforts to allow workers from all groups to successfully pursue the careers that suit their interests and talents. The CFI can help business leaders and other stakeholders contextualize their efforts.

To learn more about the Gallup-Amazon Careers of the Future research, explore our interactive page.

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Kyle Christensen is a content writer at Gallup.

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