HIMSS Study Shows IT Pay Gaps Persist Between Genders, Races

Posted on March 14, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

It would be nice to think that, in a profession focusing on hard, measurable skills, that given the same experience level and skill set, HIT staffers would make more or less the same salaries. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, according to data from the latest health IT compensation study by HIMSS.

Researchers found that as of previous years, race and gender seem to play a significant role in how much a health IT professional is paid. According to the study, females make 18% less than their male peers, and minorities make 12% less than non-minorities on average across all positions and number of years in a given position.

As the level of responsibility grows, the gap in pay seems to increase as well. The study found that women in executive roles actually face a larger salary gap versus their male counterparts than women at other levels in their organization. Moreover, that gap is growing. Meanwhile, minority females are particularly hard-hit, with the lowest average salaries of the four combinations of gender and racial groups studied, HIMSS reports.

Overall, respondents working in digital health reported being moderately satisfied with the current base salaries, while non-white respondents tended to be less satisfied than respondents who defined themselves as white.

Oddly, despite the substantial pay gap between them and their male peers, females in digital health appeared to be just as satisfied with their pay as their male peers. HIMSS researchers speculate that the reason women are satisfied with lower pay is that they simply don’t know they’re being under compensated. (Given my experience as a professional female, I’d also speculate that some women simply get tired of fighting to close the pay gap and make peace with what they’ve got.)

Having summed all of this up, HIMSS researchers made a few recommendations as to how health organizations can address pay gaps, such as accepting that these gaps exist, educating managers and why gender and racial equality is good for business and adopting strategies that help to reduce such disparities. The researchers also suggest making tools available that can help all health IT professionals understand what they’re worth and negotiate fair pay agreements.

As for me, I’d go a bit further. I’d argue that professionals whose gender and/or minority status have impacted their pay should speak out. It’s all well and good to have provider organizations recognize that their pay structure may not be fair and take action. But ultimately, drawing attention to these gaps both within and outside of the healthcare industry may have the biggest long-term effect.