The Gender Pay Gap is Also a Fact of Life for Physicians

A study recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association showed that female physicians at some of the nation’s most prominent public medical schools earn less a year on average than their male colleagues. After controlling for nine factors that drive income the industry, researchers found that female physicians at 24 public medical schools earned an average of $20,000 a year, or 8 percent, less than males ($227,783, compared to $247,661). Without controlling the factors, the difference was about $50,000 a year ($206,641, compared to $257.947). Some of the explanations for the raw difference include household responsibilities, differences in how men and women negotiate salaries, volume of patients seen by a physician and the number of publications he or she had written.

The trend of less pay for female physicians stretches across all specialties. The medical fields with the highest disparities for men and women included orthopedic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and cardiology. The average pay gap between female and male orthopedic surgeons was nearly $41,000. The difference was about $38,000 among oncologists and blood specialists, about $36,000 among obstetrician-gynecologists and $34,000 among cardiologists.

So does gender discrimination play a role in salary difference or career advancement? Most female physicians say yes. Another survey funded by Rock Health, a healthcare funding group, surveyed 400 female physicians and found that women feel gender continues to hold them back – 96% believed gender discrimination still exists. It is no secret that women in general are often paid less than their male counterparts in the same position. The Equal Pay Agenda revealed that full-time working women earn only about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Dr. Anupam B. Jena, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, says that their findings highlight the fact that these differences persist even when they accounted for detailed factors that influence income and reflect academic productivity. She believes that a subtle bias against women exists. Research like this is extremely helpful in keeping the issue in the public eye. A lack of transparency with respect to salaries would also be helpful.