The Houston Chronicle recently took special notice of Nurse.com by OnCourse Learning’s 2018 Nursing Salary Research Report and, in particular, the gender pay gap on which the report cast a glaring light.
The newspaper’s July 13 article, “Male and female nurses doing the same job. Guess who makes more?” by Jenny Deam, stated, “A new national nursing salary study contends that even in an industry that women have predominated for generations, male nurses earn more — sometimes significantly more — than their female colleagues for doing the same job.”
The article focused on the salary figures pointed out in the Nurse.com report, which was based on an online survey that showed the discrepancies in pay. Men in the survey earned an average of $79,688 a year compared to an average $73,090 for female nurses — a difference of nearly $6,600.
Jennifer Mensik, RN
The online survey of 4,520 nurses nationwide was conducted from April to June 2017. In all 4,126 women and 394 men responded, said lead author Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, a Nurse.com consultant and education blogger, who was interviewed for the Houston Chronicle article.
Bias in modern times
In the article, Mensik said she was not surprised by the findings given that gender wage gaps are a norm in other professions, but expressed concern that it existed in nursing. “Gender bias is alive and well,” she said in the article.
The Houston Chronicle article shared details from the Nurse.com report that illustrated how the pay gap seemed to stretch across all nursing job titles, except at high administrative levels. “The exception came at the very top where women CEOs and chief operating officers vastly out-earned men, by an average of $59,000,” according to the article. “Female nurses who owned businesses or were consultants also took home more than men in the same role.”
Mensik summarizes why pay gaps in any profession should be of concern to everyone, regardless of gender, in her Nurse.com article, “Can certification help close the gender pay gap?”
“This has implications for men and women,” she said. “Even if you are a man, who might make more, why should you care? Salary should be equal regardless of gender identity, different only for education, tenure in nursing and certification.”
According to the salary report, “Men tend to work more hours per week than women on average (40 compared to 39). However, this increased number of hours worked did not statistically account for salary differences between gender alone.”
Nursing students interviewed for the Houston Chronicle article seemed concerned at the gender pay gap in their soon-to-be profession, as well. “We do the same thing and should be compensated the same,” Leah Meador, a 21-year-old female nursing student, said in the article.
“And recognized the same,” added Lauren Canales, another 21-year-old student in the class, who was interviewed for the article.
The Houston Chronicle also spoke with RNs who thought the data could be misconstrued. Susan Rupert, assistant dean of the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth and a registered nurse, said she did not dispute that there might be some differences in pay, according to the article, but that the data could be misleading because of the sampling size of men surveyed and other variables.
Patrick Laird, RN, an assistant professor at the nursing school, added that men often are better at negotiating salaries, according to the article. “A lot of men who are coming into nursing, it is a second career,” he said. “If they came from other corporate backgrounds, they may come with skills at marketing themselves and be more focused on career advancement, which will lead them up the salary ladder, he said.
Mensik is not surprised that there are naysayers. “The data speaks for itself,” she said in the article. “What I find disheartening is people will try to discredit it. We have to stop excusing that there must be some other explanation than what it is.”
In the Nurse.com “Your Nurse Salary guide” digital edition and certification blog article, Mensik offers advice on how nurses’ individual efforts can help them improve their rates of pay, namely by not being hesitant to negotiate salaries and by achieving certification. Although the survey report did not show a direct link between negotiating and salary for either gender, Mensik points out that “doesn’t mean [negotiating salary] doesn’t have an individual affect.” And when it comes to negotiating salary, men negotiate salary more often than women, according to the survey.
“Both genders can view negotiation as confrontational and, therefore, unpleasant,” Mensik said in her article, “How to negotiate your nurse salary.” “However, in a ‘Lean In’ culture that suggests women should be more aggressively ambitious, it is important to push forward with negotiating. Many fear, rightfully so, that the offer of employment may be rescinded if they push too hard. However, managers who have experience hiring staff say they typically build in wiggle room for negotiations. One manager I spoke to was always surprised when individuals took the initial offer and didn’t negotiate.”
Download our 2018 Nurse.com Nursing Salary Research Report today to find out how your salary compares to your colleagues.
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