In Key West, women earn more than men

Key West is one of just four cities in the United States where the median income for women exceeds that of men, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The American Community Survey, which goes beyond population figures and analyzes comparative social, economic and educational data, found that nationwide, men older than 16 working full-time and year-round earn an average of $47,233.

The same group of women on average earns around 78 percent of that, $37,199.

But it's different in Key West; Sebring, Fla.,; Madera, Calif.; and Fort Payne, Ala., according to survey data from 2011, the most recent figures released.

In the Southernmost City, women on average earn $33,956 while men earn $31,716.

Tiffany Horton, director of sales at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa and formerly the revenue manager for the Marriot Beachside, pointed to Key West's hospitality-driven economy as an explanation.

"I think it's a great area of success for women because of their compassion and their motherly instinct," she said. "In hospitality, sales and the hotel industry, you have to relate to so many different people and understand different personalities and work with them."

In Sebring, total earnings for both groups are slightly less but women still out-earn men, taking in an average of $28,677 compared to $27,094.

Jodi Weinhofer, executive director of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West, noted there are many high-level female executives and managers in Key West's hospitality industry, as well as numerous female guesthouse owners.

"I do think the hospitality industry is somewhat blind to men and women," she said. "In hospitality, it doesn't matter who you are. Across the board, it's all about performance."

Catherine Hill, director of research for the American Association of University Women, said of the comparative pay levels, "The big issue is what type of industries you have in that city."

"Every industry has its own drivers in terms of where you see higher wages, lower wages, more equality, and food service or hospitality is one of those," she said. "There's also such a thing as a culture. In some communities, you see a much more level playing field."

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