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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Female Professions Traditionally Suffer From Lower Pay

Published October 26, 2007 11:38 AM by Glen McDaniel

This is a touchy subject because it holds so much emotion for many people. Indulge me for a moment, read this post through completely before reacting. Many studies and doctoral theses have confirmed females on the average get paid less than men for equivalent work.

That does not mean that all women get paid less than men or that in every workplace a woman automatically gets paid less than her male counterpart. That's silly, it's not that simplistic. However, whether it's unfair or illogical or whatever, it's the reality.

Extend this logic and we find traditionally female professions (i.e., professions in which women predominate) tend to have a lower pay scale regardless of the nature of the work or the educational requirements needed. Look at nursing (until very recently), teaching, child care, flight attending, social work, etc. Clinical Lab science is such a profession as well:predominantly female, low pay for important work by educated professionals.

One of the things the nursing profession has done in recent years is to aggressively recruit men and to portray more men in their ads. Not only does this diversity encourage recruitment into the profession, but it has the down-line benefit of positively affecting wages as well. I wonder if this also has implications for clinical lab science, in terms or recruitment as well as salaries.

There are many reasons why society and employers have traditionally undervalued women's contribution to the workplace; the glass ceiling has been around for a while and is very difficult to shatter. That debate is way beyond the scope of this blog. What is clear is clinical lab science has suffered the lack of recognition and pay suppression of other female-dominated professions. The question is how (armed with that reality) we can surpass that and turn it around.


 Website file specification problem:

call up  and on the home page put "abandoment" in the search box.  Patient abandonment is a serious charge of professional misconduct.  NYS seeks remedial actions before initiating any strong legal actions.  Sorry I'm new to this stuff. :)

Bernd December 16, 2007 2:50 PM
Brooklyn NY

In New York State, there is no mandated patient to nurse ratio, but there are guidelines. ( - 15k - 2006-11-06)  These standards are general enough to be applied to laboratory technicians and technologists, to a large degree.  Workload recording is too often inadequate because a qualitative factor for procedures is not applied.  Ten basic metabolic panels which are normal and auto-reported are not equal to ten panels that require extra work such as:  dilution, repeats and phone calls for critical results.   Nurses are developing a concepts for this disparity.  This is detailed in Suzanne Gordon’s book: Nursing Against the Odds . . .  It would be great if a journalist would give voice and advocacy to these issues in the laboratory field.  Most of these issues are not gender specific. These problems are global to service workers, and affect regulated service industries like health care.   Working conditions and wages can not be improved very much, given the need to control health care costs.

Bernd December 16, 2007 2:23 PM
Brooklyn NY


You make an interesting and valid point. Just a few years ago nurses faced many of the same problems clinical laboratorians currently do. But nurses made a very deliberate and concerted effort to pull themselves up professionally, HR-wise and pay-wise.

Some observations about the nursing strategy that we as a profession could learn from:

- Nurses have 1 clear professional designation that is recognised-RN or LPN, not a variety of certifications such as MT (ASCP, HEW or AMT), CLS etc.  There are also noncertified personnel (with or without degrees) who are allowed to work in clinical laboratories.

- Licensure restricting practice to those passing a national board. Others can encroach on our practice legally inside and outside the traditional lab because no license is required

-Nurses touted their importance loudly, and appealed to all who would listen: administrators, doctors, and the public. They got an industry giant to launch a multimillion dollar campaign to educate the public and attract new people to the profession

-Nursing did lots and lots of research showing that patient care is improved when there is a high ratio of nurses to patients; especially RNs.  Conversely they have packed the literature with studies showing a risk to patient safety if there are insufficient licensed nurses on duty. That strong effort convinced accreditors like JCAHO to actually make nurse staffing a standard they survey when they accredit healthcare organizations. States like California have adopted minimum nurse/patient staffing ratios. All of these changes were driven by nurses themselves. Why haven't we done that?

Glen McDaniel November 28, 2007 5:23 PM

In addition to a female-dominated field producing lower wages for clinical laboratorians - could it also be that certain state mandates on patient care ratios could create the "visible" demand for direct-care individuals (nurses)?

I have yet to hear of a minimal staffing mandate in our state that mandates labs to staff it in conjunction to state regulations, in the way that Nurse-to-Patient ratios have to be kept to a certain number, i.e., ICU, Med Surg, Geriatric.. etc.

In doing this, the state hands down a staffing precedent that creates a legal demand for nurses, in which there is a short supply.    Laboratories only staff with what emplyees they have and often leave undesirable shifts very short staffed, because there isn't a law stating that there HAS to be a certain number of licensed technologists on site per shift.

Creating a demand with legal backing could also be a starting point for lawmakers to address the laboratory staffing issue.  Short-staffed laboratories are just as much at risk to make preventable errors as short-staffed nursing units.

Ryan , Medical Technologist November 26, 2007 9:26 PM
Buffalo NY

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