More than 90% of registered nurses in America are women, but don’t think of male nurses as underdogs. According to a new Census report, the average male nurse earns almost $10,000 a year more than the average female nurse.
Nursing has been a female-dominated profession since the start. Historians say a woman named Phoebe, referred to in the book of Romans in the Bible, was the first “visiting nurse.” The British nurse Florence Nightengale established the earliest principles of modern professional nursing, and the first professionally trained nurse in America was a woman named Linda Richards. In the 1970s, men made up just 3% of nurses. As recently as 2000, in Meet the Parents, the idea that the main male character would be a nurse was played as an embarrassing punchline.
But times have changed; or, more to the point, the economy has changed. As the Wall Street Journal points out, opportunities in male-dominated professions like construction and manufacturing plummeted during the recession and haven’t bounced back. The health care industry, on the other hand, is booming. That’s bad for the economy and your wallet, as a devastating cover story in Time made clear this week, but good for employees of hospitals and related businesses. Naturally, men are going where the jobs are.
According to that Census report, the average female nurse earns about $51,000 a year, which is 16% less than the average $60,700 made by men. It’s important to point out that part of this wage gap is due to the fact that men are more likely to work full time. But even when comparing full-time, year-round workers, female nurses earned about 9% less.
Male nurses are more likely to have a doctoral degree, and more likely to work night shifts; both those factors could play into their higher wages. But another factor is the “glass escalator“: Men earn more and advance more quickly in female-dominated professions. It’s like the glass ceiling, but instead of having incredible difficulty advancing in a profession dominated by the opposite sex, men actually benefit from it. Kinda makes you want to smash them both, doesn’t it?