The wage gap is costing female doctors thousands of dollars

Doctors Seek Higher Fees From Health Insurers
Getty Images | Adam Berry

The wage gap has long existed in the medical profession. But previous conventional wisdom chalked it up to women choosing specialties—such as pediatrics and primary care—that pay less than men. Now, research suggests that this assumption is blatantly false, and women are losing out massively to male doctors across the board—no matter which specialty they choose.

According to a new analysis, female vascular surgeons make $89,000 a year. While still a respectable salary by any means, this is still 20 percent less than male vascular surgeons. This data comes from a survey of 36,000 doctor salaries performed by Doximity, a professional networking site for doctors.

And it doesn’t stop there. Female cardiologists earn $76,000 a year, which translates to 18 percent less than male cardiologists. Hematology, the study of the blood, has the smallest wage gap of any specialty in the medical field. Women earn just 14 percent less than men, a salary that still amounts to a whopping $51,643.


Survey Controlled For Age, Region

The survey controlled for doctors’ ages, hours worked and region, but still came up with an average 27 percent wage gap that affected doctors working in all specialties across the nation. The study found that the wage gap fluctuated based on the specialty, and ultimately noted that some of the best-paying fields paid women doctors 20 percent less than their equally qualified male peers.

“In no markets or specialties did we find that women make more than men, which is fairly surprising and upsetting,” said Chris Whaley, an economist and one of the study’s authors, in an interview with Bloomberg. “We might have expected in at least one market, women would make more than men, but we didn’t find that. We still found a wage gap.”

This Doximity study neatly does away with the idea that it’s the specialty that causes the gap in payment between male and female doctors. Of course, it has helped that the number of women in the medical profession is growing. And as the profession evolves and changes, more and more women are choosing higher-paying specialties. This has helped the wage gap to narrow, but clearly not enough.

“We do know, from a variety of other settings and industries, the wage gap has been linked to factors ranging from outright discrimination to differences in trainings and backgrounds and salary negotiations,” said Whaley.

Just last year, a similar, albeit smaller, study of some of America’s most prominent public medical schools showed the same results. An analysis of the research published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that, even accounting for number of patients seen, number of publications a doctor had written and a host of other factors, the wage gap was, at its very smallest, still around 10 percent.

“This paper is going to make women academic physicians start a conversation with their institutions to promote transparency and gender equality,” said Dr. Vineet M. Arora, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, in an interview with The New York Times. “Because at the end of the day, it’s not fair.”

About the Author

Jessica Suss

An aspiring food and health writer, native Chicagoan, and nut butter enthusiast. Jessica is also the creator of BiteMeBlog, but don't call her a foodie More.

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