How One Nurse Views the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July celebrates our freedom from being subjugated by England. I admit I get a bit teary-eyed when saying the Pledge of Allegiance while gazing upon “Old Glory”.  As women, though, were we considered to really be free and independent like men in post-colonial days?

The Right To Vote Made the Difference!

Before 1920 women could not vote (except in Wyoming, “the equality state”).  The suffragettes  suffered a lot, often being jailed and probably beaten by their male family members while they struggled to win the right for us to vote.  The ability to vote, many acknowledged, made women full citizens of our great country.

How About Freedom to Make a Good Living  Even in the Health Care Field?

When my mother was young in the post-World War Two era, and actually up until the Women’s Movement in the late 1960’s generally the only professions open to women were secretarial, nursing, social work and teaching.  None of these professional were well-paid.  My mother wanted to become a registered nurse, but could not afford the high tuition. Today, technically women are able to enter any profession, and nursing at least is better paid, but a glass ceiling still persists in many companies.

Pay equity is not a reality for women either as we still only earn an average of 77 cents on the dollar of men are paid.  The real irony in Wyoming (remember it is “the equality state), women only make 67 cents on the one dollar their male colleagues make, or 67% of what a man earns.  So women in Wyoming make 2/3 the salaries of men, while women across the nation at least earn over 3/4.

I have heard excuses for the wage discrepancies, such as men negotiate better than women for higher pay, while women take what we are offered.  A friend of mine who worked as a Human Resources Director, shared that the D.O.N. (and only female department head) at his hospital was paid much less than comparable other upper management people.  He asked the CEO why, and was told the woman’s husband made a substantial salary, so “she didn’t need the money”.  I wonder how many other married women have been treated as being one half of another person?

How Can We Help Even Up Women’s Earnings?

  1.  Use your right to vote.  Research politicians who are known to favor women’s rights and support them.
  2.  I love the bumper sticker that reads:  “Women belong in the house—and in the Senate” so also consider voting more women (especially qualified nurses) into key offices.
  3. Learn and use the art of negotiation instead of just accepting a salary that is below the market value of your education, skills and experience level.
  4. Research what similar potential positions are paying as often a more equitable salary can thus be negotiated.
  5. 5.      Remember to present yourself are being confident.  While I believe in the “80-20” communication rule (Thamm, How to Manage with a Magic Wand, (No, Don’t Hit Your Problem Employees Over the Head with it!), 2011) while being interviewed, I do share pertinent achievements and short success stories that show how I can be of great value to the perspective employer.  This perceived value often translates into a higher salary offer.

While I look forward as most people to enjoying fireworks and fun with friends on Independence Day, I also am realistic that women, even professionals have a long way to go to become truly equal with men, especially regarding pay equity.  This inequality seems to be incongruent to living in our modern country.  Even more ironic is the most disparity happens in the state touted to be “the equality state”.

Remember, just because you are an exceptional professional nurse or other professional woman doesn’t mean you will automatically get the salary you deserve!


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