Scientist, Educator & Speaker
The compensation needle is moving for female physicians – but, in the wrong direction.
The 2018 Physician Compensation Report by Doximity was released in March, and it is not an uplifting story. So much attention has been paid for years about the national gender wage gap, you would think that this gap would be shrinking – including in professions like medicine that require a high-level of education and many years of training to qualify for practice. But, awareness of the problem has done nothing to solve the problem.
The good news is that, overall, there was a 4% increase in physician salaries from 2016 to 2017. The bad news is that the average national gender pay gap widened during this time period. In 2016, female doctors made $91,284 less than male doctors – this increased to $105,000 less in 2017. These are very large numbers. This pay gap is nearly twice the median U.S. salary in 2017!
Is this gender pay gap due to differences in chosen specialties? No. As of 2017, men out-earned women in every medical specialty, including those in which women outnumber men (e.g., pediatrics and pediatric sub-specialties).
Is this gender pay gap due to differences in employment status? No. It didn’t matter if the physician was an owner/partner of a medical practice, an independent contractor, or an employee of a medical practice/hospital – men made more than women by many tens of thousands of dollars.
This latest study is sadly consistent with work published back in 2011 showing a gender pay gap with newly trained New York State physicians, fresh out of residency (Lo Sasso et al., 2011). Newly-minted male physicians earned significantly more than their female counterparts regardless of practice type, location type, and patient-care hours per week. This gender gap was also seen in 18 out of 20 specialties investigated. These data indicate that the gender pay gap cannot be explained by choices that male and female physicians make in the type of medicine they practice or how they practice it. Importantly, this earlier study compared “apples-to-apples”.
What could be causing this persistent and growing gender pay gap? How about persistent gender bias in medicine? Yes, that seems to be what’s going on.
How does the practice of medicine fix this problem? For starters, non-profit hospitals and clinics should be held accountable by their board of trustees to make sure compensation plans are fair and equitable. Further, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy at their 2018 annual meeting to actively advocate for gender equity in pay. They need to put relentless pressure on health care facilities to make it happen (O’Reilly, 2018).
Equal pay for equal work. It’s not rocket science … or brain surgery. By the way, female brain surgeons made an average of $118,014 less than male brain surgeons in 2017.
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