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HIMSS Study Finds Gender-Based Pay Gaps in Health IT Widened in the Past 10 Years

July 27, 2016
by Heather Landi
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According to a longitudinal assessment by Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), female health information technology (IT) workers in the United States have been consistently paid less over the past 10 years than their male peers, with the pay gap disparity worsening over time.

The HIMSS Longitudinal Gender Compensation Assessment report reflects a study of compensation data gathered and analyzed by HIMSS from the biennial HIMSS Compensation Surveys from the years 2006 through 2015, with respondents predominantly from the U.S.

According to that longitudinal study, in 2006, the average female IT worker made 81 percent of the average male IT worker’s pay. By 2015, this compensation gap widened by 2.7 percent to 78 percent.

The study also found that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the average male HIT worker’s salary grew by 1.16 percent between 2006 and 2015 while the average female’s salary grew by only 0.79 percent.

As reported by Healthcare Informatics assistant editor Heather Landi in an article in the July/August magazine issue, a HIMSS compensation survey released in March pointed to a significant gender-based pay gap within health IT. That survey indicated that men had a higher average compensation at $126,000 compared to women at $101,000. When looking at the data from the perspective of full-time employment, according to the study findings, men earned an average of $124,000 annually, while their female counterparts earned $100,000. In that article, a number of health IT executive leaders shared how many healthcare provider organizations are trying to address the pay gap issues by examining salary data, among other actions.

The recently released HIMSS 10-year compensation assessment analyzed the pay gap between women and men healthcare IT workers from 2006 through 2015 as influenced by four factors—tenure in their current position, level of managerial responsibility, type of healthcare organization, and organizational tax status.

When analyzing pay gaps and tenure, the researchers looked at two study periods—2006 and 2015—and according to the report, two interesting factors emerged.

First, the pay gap pattern reversed direction. “The pay gap for new female HIT employees in 2006 (83.2 percent) took a major step backwards as the gap widened by 11.1 percentage points to 72.1 percent in 2015. The opposite being true for longer tenured employees as the gap narrowed by 8.2 percentage points,” the report authors wrote.

Second, the pay gap divide by tenure has widened. “In 2006, the pay gap differential between those experiencing the greatest disparity (the longest tenured female employees = 77.7 percent) and those with the greatest equity (new female employees = 83.2 percent) was 5.5 percentage points. In 2015, the differential expanded to 13.8 percentage points,” the report authors stated.

When examining salaries of men and women and accounting for title level, or level of managerial responsibility, the report findings indicate there is an evident gender gap as females consistently make less than their male peers regardless of their title level. “For example, female Senior/Executive managers in 2015 on average tended to make 85.5 percent of what male Senior/Executive managers on average were paid in 2015,” the report author wrote.

The study findings indicate that the pay gap divide is widest amongst Senior/Executive Managers. The divide for this group increased from 89.4 percent in 2006 to 85.5 percent in 2015. On one positive note, the Managers were the only group to experience any narrowing of the pay gap divide (0.7 percentage points), going from 91.7 percent in 2006 to 92.4 percent in 2015, according to the study.

“No matter how the data was analyzed, a general pay gap pattern emerged. The analysis yielded the most remarkable findings, however, when considering both the type of health organization (e.g. provider, vendor, etc.) and the organization’s tax status,” HIMSS officials stated in a press release.

For example, in 2015, health IT vendors/consultants reflected the “most equitable” of working environments, compensating female IT workers, on average, at 92 percent of their male peers. Health IT vendors compensate females more in-line with male employees than any other type of healthcare HIT employer. According to the study findings, vendors’ trajectory from 2008 to 2015 has been to reduce the pay gap moving from 87.4 percent (2008) to 91.7 percent (2015).

By comparison, for-profit providers showed the greatest compensation disparities, paying woman IT professionals, on average in 2015, only 67 percent of what they paid men to do the same work, down from 73 percent in 2008. In not-for-profit provider organizations, women earned only 78 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2008 and that gap actually widened by 2015 to 77.1 percent.

The report notes that given these trends, leaders in these types of organizations—provider organizations—may have challenges in recruiting female IT staff.

“To attract and retain talented women for the health IT workforce, we must demonstrate compensation equity for women and men. This assessment shows that while we have much work to do, there are sectors of the industry where the gender gap is closing clearly suggesting that gender equity in compensation is possible,” Carla Smith, executive vice president, HIMSS, and leader of the HIMSS North American business unit, said in a prepared statement.

In conclusion, the report authors wrote, “’Equal pay for equal work.’ While a widely agreed-upon concept, the need to address gender pay gaps continues to be very real in 2016. As relevant to the health IT industry as it is to the market in-general. While the evidence in this report clearly indicates that the sector could do a much better job in addressing pay inequalities, the positive story emerging from the data is that pay disparities vary given certain conditions. This suggests compensation equity in health IT is possible.”

The HIMSS report authors assert that industry leaders need to better understand the causes for the gender-based pay inequities, and the begin to address and bridge the gaps.

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