A Gender Pay Gap for Female Physicians: New Research and Solutions

To the surprise of many, a large new study found a persistent gender pay gap for female physicians. Catherine Saint Louis reports in the New York Times that contrary to previous studies of physician salaries, which drew from incomplete data and could be easily dismissed, this study draws on a large objective sample of ten thousand physician faculty members at twenty-four public medical schools in the United States. The researchers carefully controlled for a variety of factors that can influence income, such as volume of patients seen, years since residency, specialty, and age. Saint Louis reports that after adjusting for these factors, the researchers found the following discrepancies:

  • Female neurosurgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, and other surgical specialists made roughly $44,000 less than men in those positions.
  • Female orthopedic surgeons made nearly $41,000 less than male orthopedic surgeons.
  • Women made about $38,000 less among oncologists and blood specialists, $36,000 less among obstetrician-gynocologists, and $34,000 less among cardiologists.
  • Only in radiology did women make more—about $2,000 more than men.
  • Female professors made about the same salary as male associate professors even though the female professors outranked them.
Dr. Kim Templeton, the president of the American Medical Women’s Association, notes that while this new research is important, “just having it out there isn’t going to fix the problem.” What will fix the problem? I am proud to report that the state of Massachusetts, where I live, is moving closer to passing legislation to close the gender pay gap, which has persisted in spite of the legal prohibitions against gender-based pay discrimination passed by the state in 1945. Michael Bodley of the Boston Globe explains that the new legislation, if passed, will take the following proactive steps:
  • Require all companies in Massachusetts to undertake a study of their gender-based pay practices and publish the results.
  • Protect employers from being held liable for pay-discrimination lawsuits if they can show that they have undertaken a study of wage disparities in the past three years and can demonstrate reasonable progress toward eliminating the gap.
  • Prohibit employers from asking applicants about their salary history until the employer has made a salary offer. This helps eliminate the negative impact of women’s historically lower salaries.
As long as organizations do not analyze and publish their salary data, they have “plausible deniability,” explained Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations. But as we know, tracking and researching the numbers are not enough. Both employees and legislatures need to hold organizations accountable for closing the gender wage gap. Do you have success stories for closing the wage gap? I would love to hear them.   The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Darko Stojanovic.       ]]>