Equal pay for equal work?
I look forward to reading the MLO Salary Survey [each year] in the March issue, as I think it provides valuable information with regard to industry trends.
I am curious, however, how you were able to draw the conclusion that "a lot of work remains to reach the goal of equal pay for equal work" [p.16]. Perhaps you collected more data than is represented in print? Simply publishing a male vs. female salary is not sufficient to draw those conclusions.
I have been a director for some 25 years. During those 25 years, I can suggest some reasons for the differences in salaries other than gender bias. Women traditionally fulfill the role as primary parent. Often, female laboratorians remove themselves from the workforce or work reduced hours during early child-rearing years. On the other hand, male employees are often quicker to relocate for better salaries than many female employees, as often the latter are tied geographically, due to family or their significant other's employment. 1 wonder if, had you been able to determine years of continuous employment for the same employer by gender, whether it would not validate my theory.
I am a firm believer that gender should never determine salary, but 1 feel your article attempts to sensationalize the obvious salary difference by making assumptions that are not validated. In my over 30 years in this field, I can honestly say I have never witness anything to suggest gender bias by pay for any reason other than what I have hypothesized.
--Rick Cooke, BS, MT(ASCP)
Director, Clinical Laboratories University of South Alabama Medical Center MCI Cancer Centers Clinical Laboratories
Editor's Note: We thank Mr. Cooke for a thought-provoking letter, and we agree that it can be problematic to draw broad conclusions from data that by its nature cannot allow for many contingencies and specific situations. He is surely correct that broader social trends affect salary--women leaving the workforce to care for young children more frequently than men do, even in this era when parenting responsibilities are shared more fully than in past generations; and wives following husbands' career-related relocations more frequently than husbands follow wives. Those broad trends can be seen as examples of institutionalized gender inequalities that affect employment and compensation within the larger society, and are not specific to the lab. Perhaps it might be most accurate to say that salary statistics in the lab reflect some of the same lingering social constructs that affect the averages elsewhere in the workforce.
It is heartening to read from Mr. Cooke that he has not observed intentional gender bias with regard to compensation in the lab. We invite other readers to weigh in on that issue.