Male nurses make up to $5,000 a year more than female nurses in the same positions, according to a new study. Around 90 percent of nurses are women, making nursing one of the most female-dominated of all professions.
Ulrike Muench, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, examined two massive databases to collect data on pay scales in the nursing profession. One of these, the American Community Survey, contained data on the pay of 2,006 nurses between 2001 and 2013. The National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses supplied information, from 1988 to 2008, on 88,000 nurses.
Male nurses in outpatient settings earned an average of $7,678 more than their female colleagues, while hospital nurses made $3,783 more if they were male, the study determined. The specialty with the highest pay gap was for nurse anesthetists, for whom males made an average of $17,290 a year more than females. Orthopedics was the only branch of nursing where men did not make more money than women. The pay gap between genders has remained nearly unchanged over the last 25 years, the study determined.
"It's a real indictment that this issue of gender disparity is prevalent in nursing where it's predominantly female. In Wall Street or Silicon Valley people can dismiss it because it's a culture that's not known to be accommodating — a male-dominated work environment where it's stacked against them — but when you see this inequity in nursing, it speaks to a larger problem," Patricia Davidson of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing said.
The study did not determine why the pay gap exists, particularly in a field dominated by women. Davidson believes the cause may be that men are, on average, better at negotiating raises and higher starting pay than women. Female nurses may also take extended leave from from work more often the males to care for children and aging parents, the researcher theorizes. Only about half of the pay gap can be explained by factors such as schooling, experience and education, the researchers determined.
"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," said Muench, lead author of an article announcing the study.
Working in nursing provides flexible hours, drawing many young mothers into the field. Around 2.5 million female nurses are affected by the pay gap, according to the research.
Analysis of differences between pay rates between male and female nurses was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
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