The gender pay divide: Nurses seek to narrow gap that hurts women's advancement

Wage gaps by gender persist even in the nursing field that has long been dominated by women, but experts say multiple solutions would help narrow them, according to

The nursing pay gap is substantially narrower than that of other industries, according to the article; for example, female nurses make 90 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, as opposed to 61 percent for financial advisers. This is roughly equivalent to earlier research that found male nurses made an average of 8 percent more than their female counterparts. However, the disparity's persistence is surprising, especially considering how many nurses are public employees, union members or both, Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, told

Several factors account for much of the difference, including educational and practice pattern variations, as well as the tendency of male nurses to work longer hours and in better-paying geographic areas, such as major cities and the East or West Coasts. However, they also typically advance in their careers faster than their female counterparts as well, a phenomenon known as the "glass escalator."

There are several potential fixes to the imbalance, according to Linda H. Aiken, Ph.D., R.N., professor in nursing and sociology, and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, University of Pennsylvania. For example, realignment of private insurance Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements across specialties and settings could reduce the disparities, she told

"Nurse practitioners still get only 85 percent of the payment that M.D.s receive for exactly the same services, and primary care providers are compensated less than in rapidly growing clinical specialties such as nurse anesthesia," Aiken said. "Payment policies for long-term care including mental health services require nurses to sacrifice their incomes to provide much needed care."

Nurses must also discuss their salaries where possible, Hegewisch said, but nationally, 60 percent of private sector employees say they are either forbidden to or strongly discouraged from discussing salaries with management. This presents a catch-22, as research shows men are more likely to negotiate raises,  but managers have negative views when female employees attempt to negotiate pay.

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