Gender Workforce Equality Is Not Gender Pay Equality

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.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • I am the ‘female CIO’ that John cites in this article. I do appreciate John listening to my concern and and taking the time to clarify his intended meaning. Social media platforms, including podcasts greatly amplify every word that we say since they are shared by so many. And we all know that words count.
    We have much work to do in the area of equality in the work place across many dimensions – gender, race, ethnicity to name a few. Awareness is the very first step.
    Thank you, John, for helping to make us all aware.

    Jamie M. Nelson
    Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
    Hospital for Special Surgery
    New York, New York

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