In the female-dominated field of nursing, men are still bringing home the larger paychecks.
A recent study revealed that male nurses out-earned female nurses by more than $5,000 on average per year, with no narrowing of the pay gap over the last 25 years.
“This is not information that should be taken lightly or dismissed,” said Debra Barksdale, professor and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. “This is information that the nursing profession needs to take a good hard look at.”
Male nurses were paid $70,000 on average in 2013 versus $60,000 for women. The study showed a range of income disparities depending on specializations within the field, but a gap existed in every specialization except for orthopedics.
The largest gap, for nurse anesthetists, was approximately $17,000 per year.
Barksdale said this study was important in quantifying an assumption many professionals in the field already had.
“For many years there had been talk of a discrepancy between the pay of male and female nurses but nothing of this scale,” she said.
Of the 333 undergraduate students currently enrolled in the School of Nursing, 44 are male. This includes students in the six-semester Bachelor of Science in Nursing option and the four-semester Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing option, said Carlee Meritt, assistant director for undergraduate admissions in the School of Nursing, in an email.
Nursing is the largest profession in the health care industry, and about 2.5 million women are affected by this pay inequality, according to the study. Men account for less than 10 percent of registered nurses as of 2013.
Sophomore Ashleigh Luttrell will begin the nursing program in May with plans to become a nurse anesthetist, the specialization with the largest pay gap.
“I wasn’t surprised about the pay gap. I was surprised about the extent of the pay gap — $17,000 is ridiculous,” she said.
Luttrell was also alarmed that the gap had not changed over time.
“The fact that this pay gap has existed for 25 years at this magnitude is shocking,” she said. “It just shows that this country is so stagnant.”
The study suggested possible reasons for the pay gap beyond gender discrimination, including men negotiating for raises more assertively and women leaving and re-entering the workforce more frequently.
The study said the role of registered nurses in particular will expand as the Affordable Care Act places more emphasis on team-based health care.
“As a nation we sort of embrace the concept of equal pay for equal work,” Barksdale said. “If we can’t get this right in such a female-dominated profession, I don’t know what hope we have for other fields.”
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