In our recent 2020 Health IT Predictions podcast episode, we made a wide variety of predictions about what we can expect in healthcare and health IT. One of the predictions Colin made on that episode was that the discussion of equal pay and the gender pay gap would finally come to a head in healthcare. He suggested that healthcare was going to start really asking “Are we really treating people the same and are we paying people the same?” and that the old boy’s club stories are going to come out. Plus, he said that it doesn’t seem that healthcare has fully had this discussion and done this soul searching quite yet like has been done in some other industries.
In response to his prediction, I said the following:
“Healthcare is unique because it has its girl’s club, known as the nurses, right? And so maybe that’s why they’ve avoided it. I don’t know for sure. We’ve started to see it come out with doctors and even IT professionals and people, but I think they’ve been able to avoid it by saying, ‘Oh yeah, we’re 50/50 female/male because there are so many nurses that are female.’ I wonder how that dynamic will play into it.”
After listening to this podcast and the above comments, a female CIO reached out to me and said “I was shocked at the statement you made in the 2020 HCIT Predicitions Podcast regarding gender inequality in health care. You stated that there was a ‘girls club – nurses’ that made things equal.” She then went on to describe how women are not treated nor paid the same as male counterparts in healthcare and that I should look at the data.
First of all, I’m grateful to this CIO for reaching out to me and sharing that this is how she heard what I said, because if she understood it that way, she was probably not alone. I certainly wasn’t articulate in my answer and could have done much better at describing my point. I was certainly not trying to say that having a similar number of each gender meant that each gender was treated equally. I feel awful that even one person would take it this way, let alone others. I was trying to say that some people use having a similar number of each gender as a way to avoid talking about and addressing other gender inequalities and that’s unfortunate because they’re not the same.
Second, I shouldn’t have even said that the nurses was a “girls club.” It was an attempt to play off Colin’s use of the “old boy’s club” comment that really didn’t fit since I’ve heard of studies where even in nursing where there are more women, men will often get paid more.
While I can’t go back and rerecord and better articulate what I said and people have already heard, I wanted to take a minute in an article to make sure what I was trying to say is clear since it was the opposite of what was heard by at least some.
I’m 100% not saying that gender workforce equality is gender pay equality. Just because you have the same number of female and male employees doesn’t mean that you’re paying each gender equally. What I was trying to say was that those who aren’t treating women equally have used gender workforce equality (ie. number of people from each gender working at an institution) to falsely mask and hide their need to change when it comes to how women are treated and pay equality. In fact, it’s a real problem for any leader to use this type of false logic.
As the CIO mentioned above pointed out, the data is there. Every healthcare leader should be looking at the data and making changes where gaps exist in their organization. That takes work. That means you’re going to have some uncomfortable conversations. Although, they’re extremely important conversations that should be had. It’s better to have those conversations on your own than to have them thrust upon you in some terrible news story.
I appreciate when people reach out to me when something we’ve shared on Healthcare IT Today isn’t right. That’s how we grow and improve. Hopefully this clarifies the point I was trying to make and maybe encourages someone to have these important conversations in their organization.