Mckinsey released an extensive analysis: “Women in the healthcare industry” that had valuable information: women in healthcare face unique challenges such as diversity and inclusion, parental/caregiver responsibilities, increased workload, and the wage gap.
At UbiSim, an immersive VR platform, our focus is on nursing, so we will hone in on what we learned about the challenges and hopes for female nurses from this analysis and a few other reports.
Let’s start with the challenges and their accompanying solutions and then look at the hopes for women in nursing.
Nurse populations reflecting the greater diversity of society is crucial. Nurses from diverse backgrounds can provide a more comprehensive and culturally sensitive approach to patient care, effectively communicate with patients who speak different languages, and help address systemic barriers to care for underrepresented and marginalized communities.
Representation remains an issue for women of color, especially in higher-level positions. According to the McKinsey analysis, women of color comprise almost a fourth of entry-level positions but only 5 percent of C-suite ones. Further, Minority Nurse shares that only about 24% of nurses are people of color.
McKinsey suggests, the solutions are: “bias training, objective criteria for evaluation and promotion, diverse slates for promotions, and greater transparency and reporting.”
Women, in particular, sometimes face having to choose between caring for a family or community member and going to work. McKinsey advocates, “Women in healthcare are twice as likely as men to cite parenthood and increased home responsibilities as reasons for missing out on opportunities for promotion.” Balancing these responsibilities with their demanding jobs can be challenging, leading to stress, burnout, and reduced job satisfaction.
Bright Horizons shared that a solution may be “Hospitals can anticipate this forced choice by providing flexible benefits that free up time for healthcare workers to provide care to family or community members. They can also take innovative approaches to support women and keep them in the workforce, with high-quality on-site or off-site child care options.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 91% of nurses in the U.S. are women. This overrepresentation can lead to increased workload, including assignment to high-stress or high-demand units. Further, healthcare organizations often have insufficient nursing staff to meet the care demand, leaving workloads out of control.
There are a variety of solutions that can be used to address increased workload. One is increasing staffing, one of the most effective ways to address increased workload in nursing. Hiring additional nurses, while a challenge given the shortage of nurses, can help distribute the workload and reduce the burden on individual nurses.
Gender-based pay disparities persist in nursing, as in many other professions, with female nurses often earning less than their male counterparts for the same work. A 2022 report shares,
“Men report making an average of $7,300 more than women as RNs.” In other words, women RNs are paid 91 cents for every dollar men earn.
Wage transparency is one way to address this. Encouraging or mandating wage transparency can uncover pay disparities and create an environment where employees can openly discuss compensation without fear of retaliation.
There are reasons to celebrate and be hopeful about women in healthcare.
“As a whole, healthcare continues to outperform other sectors in the representation of women, who make up more than two-thirds of entry-level employees in healthcare organizations.”
There were three important shifts in 2021:
These shifts give hope to nurses that they can move up in their careers (potentially to management or higher!), be relieved from burnout, and experience external hiring, which ultimately ends up with more female representation.