Health Labor Rights

Equal Pay Day: Healthcare Workers Deserve Equal Pay (And Then Some)

Women in healthcare are on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19 and are risking their safety every day to save the lives of those who are critically ill right now. Women make up 78% of the healthcare field overall, but consistently make less than their male counterparts across the board. This national Equal Pay Day we want to recognize their courage and all of their hard work by drawing attention to the pay inequity they face.

Racial and ethnic pay inequities compound the problem of the gender gap. Women of color make even less than their white female colleagues across all industries. On average, Black women make 65% of what white men earn, Hispanic women make 61% of what white men earn, while white women make 81% of what white men earn.

The healthcare field is dominated by women, but research shows that when men, especially white men, join fields that have traditionally been dominated by women they are paid more, and rise through the ranks with more ease. They are also more likely to be promoted to a supervisory position than a woman with similar experience and qualities.

On average men in the healthcare field earn around $86,219 a year, while women only make an average of $45,976 a year.

Registered nurses make around $73,000 a year or $30 an hour on average, while licensed practical nurses make about $20 an hour, or just about $44,000 a year. Even though men make up less than 10% of the nursing field they still make about $6,000 a year more than their female counterparts, regardless of level of education or experience. 

Women healthcare workers, especially women of color, are vastly underpaid. Nursing assistants only make $26,268 a year or around $13.50 an hour, while personal care aides make and home health aides, who care for those who are too sick or elderly to leave their homes, make $22,000 a year or around $10 an hour. Female paramedics make $40,872 a year while their male counterparts make $51,532 a year, meaning women paramedics make 65.5% of what their male colleagues earn. These workers provide lifesaving, essential, compassionate care to millions but are not paid a living wage.

An article titled “In Demand and Undervalued—The Plight of American Healthcare Workers” from the American Journal of Public Health states that, “…in 2017, 1.7 million female health care workers and their children in the United States lived below the poverty line. More than 7% lacked health insurance. Many relied on public assistance for health care, food security, and housing.” 

Healthcare workers of all genders, races, and ethnicities nationwide are overwhelmed with patients who are ill with COVID-19, and they are working around the clock to care for our family members, friends, and neighbors. They are facing an outrageous shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) but are still showing up for every shift to face the ongoing pandemic that seems to have no end in sight.

We want to salute all of the healthcare worker’s sacrifices and demand equal and better pay for women healthcare workers, particularly women of color, and we believe all first responders, healthcare workers, and hospital employees deserve higher salaries especially during this crisis.

They are the heroes that have emerged during what is truly a frightening time in our country, and they deserve more than our admiration and thanks. Women healthcare workers deserve fair and equal pay, but all healthcare workers regardless of gender and race deserve higher wages, and even bonuses, during this pandemic.

Sources: of Labor StatisticsAmerican Journal of Public HealthInstitute for Women’s Policy ResearchFast CompanyHealthLeaders Media

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