The Gender Wage Gap for Teachers and Nurses

CNN recently reported that, among full-time workers, women earn about 78 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gap is more pronounced for black women (64 cents) and Latinas (56 cents) compared to every dollar earned by a white man. One of the most surprising findings for me is that this gender pay gap persists, even in female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing. For example, women hold 70 percent of elementary and middle school teaching jobs, yet men still earn more for the same role. The CNN report goes on to explain that “male teachers earn a median of $1,096 a week, whereas women earn $956—about 87 cents to the man’s dollar.” The most shocking news about the gap for me, reported in the New York Times by Catherine Saint Louis, is that the pay gap for nurses did not narrow from 1988 to 2013—twenty-five years! I was surprised that any gender pay gap exists for nurses considering that between 90 percent and 93 percent of nurses are women. I thought that surely this was one profession where there would not be a gap. But this is not the case. Here are some facts from a study of 290,000 registered nurses:

  • Overall, male nurses make $5,100 more on average per year than female colleagues in similar positions.
  • Male cardiology nurses are paid on average $6,000 more per year.
  • Male chronic care nurses make roughly $3,800 more than women.
  • Male nurse anesthetists are paid $17,290 more per year on average.
The researchers reporting these pay gaps for nurses could only speculate about the reasons for these persistent gaps:
  • Men may be better negotiators.
  • Women may have a tougher time getting promoted.
  • Only about 20 percent of nurses who work in hospitals are unionized, which may be a factor.
  • A lingering bias may persist that a man is more of an expert because he is a man.
We need to be aware of the persistent gender gap in almost all professions in the United States. As explained by Terry O’Neill in Ms. Magazine, the gender and gender/race wage gap undermines women’s economic security, and lawmakers continue to dismiss this harsh reality. She noted that, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gap is closing so slowly that “if we keep going at the current pace, it will be the year 2058 before women have wage parity.” If you agree with me that 2058 is too long to wait, then it’s time that we get together and demand that our lawmakers take this issue seriously and legislate for pay equity.]]>

3 thoughts on “The Gender Wage Gap for Teachers and Nurses”

  1. Pay gap is just the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? A lot of bennies are % of salary, like Social Security, 401(k)/TSP/etc contributions – both the total you can contribute, plus again with the match.
    Now if we could just get my landlord to charge me only 78% of my rent and utilities, restaurants and clothing stores to charge me 78% of the price of a male, so I could save the other 22% to make up for the retirement and other bennies, then I might be cool with this…
    Also, what about the dry cleaners who charge 99-cents for a man’s shirt and $2-3 for a woman’s? And the fact that birth control is considered the woman’s responsibility with 70-75% of both men and women thinking that – and women’s birth control is more expensive…not to mention that the majority of single parents are women, and child support is awarded to about half and only about 2/3 of those receive it. (In all fairness, women who owe child support to custodial fathers aren’t much better at paying, but that situation is just more rare:
    Add to all of that, that we live longer…Dave Ramsey talks about how it’s common for a married couple to accumulate a nice nest egg for retirement, then the husband become ill and drains the bulk account before he dies, and the woman has to live about a decade longer on what’s left.
    It’s all very frustrating, b/c it all feels – and much of the data seems to support this – that women’s economic lag is more systemic than a single law for wage parity…not that we can’t start there, but it just seems bigger.
    So I appreciate your bringing up this wage study, but I see it is just the first sign of a much bigger societal problem. It is way bigger than a man negotiating 5-10% more than a woman for a job. It’s about the long-term quality of life for our mothers, our sisters, and ourselves.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Julie. I agree that the gender wage gap is about way more than fairness. It is symptomatic of the undervaluing of women in our society that results in significant quality of life impact for us.


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