Women have always vastly outnumbered men in the nursing profession — by a lot. In fact, today, they make up nearly 90 percent of the industry’s U.S. workforce. So it begs the question: Why do their male counterparts still make so much more than them?
A recent survey of more than 4,500 registered nurses from all 50 states found that male nurses earn an average of $79,688 a year compared to $73,090 for women — a nearly $6,600 pay gap, according to Nurse.com by OnCourse Learning, an online educational resource for nurses throughout the world, which conducted the study.
According to the survey, the wage gap may boil down to the negotiation factor — that men are “more likely to negotiate their salaries” than women. The survey found that while 43 percent of men “most of the time or always negotiate,” only 34 percent of women do so. Research has found this to be the case in professions across the U.S.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, full-time, year-round working women in 2016 earned just 80 percent of what their male counterparts earned, which is similar for full-time working women in New Jersey, who women earned 81 percent of their male counterparts, according to the nonprofit American Association of University Women.
While the overall gender wage gap in the U.S. has narrowed since the 1980s, particularly for women 25 to 34, it nonetheless remains a pervasive issue in professions nationwide, according to a report by Pew Research earlier this year.
And while the Nurse.com survey found that the wage disparity in the U.S. nursing profession is slightly better than the overall national gender pay gap, it nonetheless serves as a daunting example in an industry overwhelmingly made up of women.
There were more than 80,000 registered nurses in New Jersey in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, earning a median salary of $82,010 a year. New Jersey also ranks third for states most in need of registered nurses.
Judith Schmidt, CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSA), an organization that advocates for the registered nurses in the state, told NJ Advance Media that she was not surprised by the survey’s findings.
“Entry level salaries are basically the same. However, more men (around 7 to 10 percent of total nursing workforce) go into the higher salaried areas such as administration and entrepreneurial positions,” she said via email. “Female nurses are staying in direct patient care and bedside.”
Dr. Benjamin Evans, president of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, told NJ Advance Media in an email that, in his view, male nurses have tended to seek out more opportunities to advance their education and careers, whereas female nurses have often used the profession as “supplemental support for their families.”
He also said that often nurses are often at a disadvantage when it comes to their pay.
“Salaries and money flow are often set between non-nurse health care administrators, finance officers and human relations officers,” he said. “Nursing’s true cost and revenue has not been vetted well. Frequently, nursing care is lumped in with the daily bed rate in a hospital.”
Millicent Gorham, executive director of the National Black Nurses Association, said in the statement from Nurse.com that “women need to learn to negotiate for everything.”
Susan C. Reinhard, senior vice president and director of AARP’s Public Policy Institute and chief strategist at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, also noted in that statement that research has also linked higher degrees with “more career choices that can lead to better paying jobs.”
In fact, professional certifications, the statement said, is one avenue female nurses can use to narrow the salary gap. According to the survey, men with specialty certifications had a salary of only about $1,250 higher than their female counterparts.
Brent MacWilliams, president of the American Association for Men in Nursing, said in the statement that “traditionally, men have gravitated toward acute care, high-paid specialties and to management/administration, which are all higher paying” and that based on the survey, “it seems clear men are being paid significantly more than women in the profession doing comparable work.”
“I would call on employers to assess their current workforce for gender gaps and raise salaries to create parity,” he added.
Spencer Kent may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.