Male to female income disparity is already a significant issue in the United States, especially considering that the gender wage gap hasn’t been experiencing significant changes over the past year. According to statistics released by the US Department of Labor, the current female to male earnings ratio is close to 77 cents to the dollar (67 to the dollar when Hispanic women are concerned). Yet with a profession such as nursing, where women dominate the working field, one would expect the figures to be reversed.
Indeed, nine out of ten nurses are female and despite these overwhelming numbers, men still manage to earn significantly more than their female counterparts. A recent study not only concluded that they earn higher salaries, it also proved that the pay gap has remained constant over the past 25 years.
“Nursing is the largest female dominated profession so you would think that if any profession could have women achieve equal pay, it would be nursing,”
Ulrike Muench, lead study author said, underlining the premise of his work.
Muench and his collaborators were particularly surprised to see that the wage gap had not become smaller over the years, especially considering the female dominance in the profession they had been studying. And although the $5,000 yearly difference doesn’t seem significant (especially since it does not equal the gap in other professions), it does amount to a total of $150,000 or more after a lifelong career.
In their analysis, researchers took data spanning over an 18-year period (1990-2008) from both the government’s data of registered nurse’s earnings and US Census community surveys (from 2001 to 2013).They then compared the earnings of more than 300,000 registered nurses who had been involved in both data sets.
Women Earn Significantly Less
According to 2013 statistics, the gender gap is closing, as 10 percent of registered nurses are now male (in 1970, male nurses accounted for only 3 percent of nurses). And while the gender gap is indeed narrowing, equality in earnings seems to not be achievable.
Muench and his colleagues discovered that, in the case of registered nurses, males had earned an average salary of $71,000 in 2013. Female nurses, on the other hand, only earned $60,000 and even when accounting for other influencers, such as location, specialty, education, and experience, the gap was only trimmed by half.
The nursing specialty also influenced the amount of the pay gap, as it seems that in orthopedics, no significant gap was registered. In cardiology, for instance, male nurses earned $6,034 more than female nurses and this wasn’t even the largest difference. Anesthetics was the specialty where the largest pay gap was registered (men earned $17,300 more than female nurses) while in the case of middle management nurses, the pay gap seemed to be the smallest ($4,000).
This wage gap was also different depending on workplace: in the case of nurses caring for hospital patients, male nurses took home close to $4,000 more yearly as opposed to their female counterparts. Yet when working in outpatient settings, the same male nurses earned close to $8,000 more than women.
Gender Gap Closing
Just as more women are earning medical degrees, more men are focusing on getting nursing degrees as opposed to previous decades, and this trend only suggests that the gender gap will continue to shrink. This means that such disparities need to be carefully addressed, Muench and his colleagues believe. The study hopes to increase awareness to this important topic, especially since the matter of pay equality has become such a highly-mediatized matter.
Granted, the study has limitations. For one, it does not exhaustively investigate the reason why such a pay gap exists. Even so, Muench believes that there are some reasons apart from gender discrimination which may explain the difference. On the one hand, female nurses often leave the workforce when they start families. After their absence, they return to work but accept lower pay scales as opposed to their male counterparts who kept on working during their absence. Another reason is the fact that men may be better at negotiating their pay raises and initial salaries.
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