Gender and Race Pay Gap in Nursing Continues

In a recent study published by NurseJournal, men continue to earn higher salaries than women for performing identical tasks. Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to protect against wage discrimination based on sex or gender, unequal wages in the nursing field continue to be prevalent.

The 2020 Nurse Salary Research Report surveyed nursing professionals, including registered nurses (RNs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and licensed practical and vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs) from all 50 states. While the average yearly earnings for all respondents was $75,290, men in nursing made an annual salary of $80,000 compared with only $72,700 for women. Female RNs make 90 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same roles—nearly $7,300 less a year.

The gap persists even as women move up the ladder into administrative roles. Women chief nursing officers make $127,050, while men in these same supervisory positions earn an average of $132,700. The pay differentials have grown even wider between male and female APRNs, with men earning $16,000 more annually.

LPN/LVNs, who typically do not hold a bachelor’s degree, earn lower wages overall but show no gender differences in pay rates.

The gender pay gap between Black and Latina women and White men has closed slower than the gap for White and Asian women. The earnings ratio for Black women has only risen from 59% to 63% in the past 30 years. At this rate, the gender pay gap for Black women will not disappear for 350 years. Latinas fared even worse, with their earnings ratio rising only 53% to 55% in the same time period. If this pace continues without implementing strategies for change, the pay gap for Latinas will not close for 432 years.

According to the same report, RNs, APRNs, and LPN/LVNs who negotiate their salaries with prospective employers before taking a position may improve their chances of earning a higher salary. However, in general, women nurses are less likely than their male counterparts to negotiate salary. For RNs, 46% of men compared with 34% of women negotiated their salaries most of the time or always. The percentage of women APRNs and LPN/LVNs who have engaged in salary negotiation also falls slightly below men in these roles.

The gender pay gap narrows with advanced training and certification, but data suggest that fewer women than men in nursing have considered furthering their education and receiving certification. Only 49% of female respondents plan to pursue higher education and certification to boost their earnings, compared with 56% of male respondents.