Even though 9 out of 10 nurses are women, men in the profession earn larger salaries, according to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Because nursing is a female-dominated profession, you might expect women to earn the same, if not more, than men. But instead, these statistics fall in line with the national numbers that show full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
In the nursing field, the typical salary gap has consistently been about $5,000, even after adjusting for factors such as experience, education, work hours, clinical specialty, and marital and parental status, according to the JAMA report.
The gender wage gap puts women at a significant career disadvantage and is an issue President Obama is fighting for through acceptance of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Researchers in the nursing study used two large U.S. data sets to examine nurses' earnings over a period of time from 1988 to 2013.
Based on work setting, there was a gender wage gap for hospital nurses—$3,783— and an even bigger one, $7,678, for nurses in outpatient settings. Male nurses earned more than their female counterparts in every specialty but orthopedics. The wage gap ranged from $3,792 in chronic care to $17,290 for nurse anesthetists.
The study did not address the reasons for the consistent gaps in pay, but suggested it's possible that men are better at negotiating raises and promotions. Or men could be less likely than women to take extended breaks from work to care for young children or aging parents.
It's also possible that the study reveals a gender difference in career choices, rather than an actual lack of equal pay for equal work. Men may be more likely to work full time or to take on more hours per week than other full time nurses. The study findings require more analysis to determine the real reasons for the earning disparity and how to address the gender gap.
It's normally considered taboo to discuss salaries in the workplace, but how do you feel about male nurses earning significantly more than their female counterparts?