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Sex Differences in the Workplace: Nursing

February 25, 2013 | Karin

In 2011, what percentage of registered nurses were male? About 10%. According to a new Census report, this is an increase from less than 3% in 1970. Besides sex differences in the proportion of the profession, a Wall Street Journal blog post, “Male Nurses Make More Money“, also highlights sex differences in earnings:

Women still dominate nursing in terms of employment — but not in terms of earnings. The average female nurse earned $51,100 in 2011, 16% less than the $60,700 earned by the average man in the same job.

The difference in earnings is partly due to the fact that men were more likely than women to work full-time. When looking only at full-time, year-round workers, the gap narrows, but it doesn’t disappear; female nurses working full-time, year-round earned 9% less than their male counterparts.

apples and oranges, men and women

Have you heard of the “glass escalator?”

Part of the reason, the Census study suggests, is a previously documented phenomenon known as the “glass escalator” in which men earn higher wages and faster promotions in female-dominated professions. In nursing, men are more concentrated in the highest-earning segments of the field. They make up 41% of nurse anesthetists, who earn nearly $148,000 on average, but only 8% of licensed practical nurses, who make just $35,000.

In trying to understand any difference in pay between male and female nurses, it is important to read this paragraph from the post:

Male nurses are more likely than female nurses to have a doctoral degree, more likely to work evening or night shifts, and more likely to be immigrants. Female nurses are more likely to work in doctor’s offices or schools, and are far more likely to be over age 65 — a reflection of nursing’s status as a female-dominated profession until recently.

Headlines like this one, Male Nurses Make More Money, get a lot of attention, but I’m glad the blog post at least acknowledged a few reasons which account for some pay differences.

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