Lest you think that we’re working towards some concept of equality, new research once again proves otherwise.(1) Not only has the gender gap in physician salaries not improved, it’s actually gotten worse over the last 10 years — nearly five times worse. This gap is often explained away by the fact that many women opt for the lower paying specialties and fewer hours because their vaginas need time to pop out some babies, but when factors like specialty and hours are accounted for women STILL earn an average of $16,819 less than their male counterparts.
And that’s just average. Need heart surgery? Your female surgeon will make an average of $27,103 less than a dude. Kid needs ear tubes for all those ear infections? A lady otolaryngologist/ENT (ear, nose & throat) makes $32,207 less than a male. Been a little short of breath from your lung disease lately and need to see a pulmonary disease specialist? The one with the boobs makes $44,320 less than the one with danglies. And remember, that’s AFTER normalizing/accounting for differences in specialty choice, hours worked, and even area cost of living. These women are receiving the exact same training, accumulating the exact same debt, and performing the exact same job, yet they are earning only a fraction of the pay.
This and previous studies have sought an explanation for the gaps and have yet to produce satisfactory explanations and results. One previous argument proposed that female physicians are just a males; these studies tend to merely measure number of patients seen and ignore things like the quality of care, patient outcomes, and patient satisfaction. Maybe it’s just my little lady-brain, but I seem to remember a few lessons from med school and life that seemed to say quantity does not equal quality. The other main historical argument has been that women disproportionately go into the lower-paying primary care fields, but not only has that trend diminished in recent years, women are still earning significantly less than their male colleagues in the same field. Family/marital status has also been shown to have little direct influence on physician salary.
The only explanation that still seems plausible after the data analysis is that there are fundamental differences in the jobs taken by female physicians beyond the specialty field and hours worked. Perhaps women are willing to sacrifice equal pay for a position that allows them more flexibility or is more amenable to their family responsibilities. It has recently been demonstrated that the field of medicine is indeed shifting to a greater focus on quality of life, but here’s the thing — both men and women are placing greater importance on jobs that permit a greater quality of life, NOT just women.
Again – both men AND women increasingly want family-friendly jobs that afford greater flexibility, yet women continue to earn $16,819 less than men. That’s nearly five times worse than the gap of $3,600 in 1999. FIVE TIMES WORSE. Disgusting.
Rants? Theories? Condolences? Distract me with your comments!
1. LoSasso AT, Richards MR, Chou CF, Gerber SE. The $16,819 Pay Gap For Newly Trained Physicians: The Unexplained Trent of Men Earning More than Women. Health Affairs. Feb. 2011; 30(2):193-201