It’s no secret that women get paid less than men regardless of their profession. What you may find surprising, however, is that this gender pay gap even exists in medicine. Why is this?
Women are more likely to take off of work, choose lower-paying specialties, and tend to work fewer hours than men. But even when data was analyzed amongst the same specialty and the pay adjusted for working hours, women still took home an average of $12,000 less per year.
How can women avoid this payment gap?
- Women need to be better negotiators. Women tend to undervalue their abilities and shy away from risk more than their male counterparts. For women, receiving higher pay ranks as the 4th criteria tied to job satisfaction whereas men rank it first. As a result, women will often accept the first salary they are offered whereas men will negotiate. Women make the mistake of negotiating salary based on need rather than what they are worth.
- Female physicians tend to rule out higher-paying specialties and private practice because the existing male-dominated culture often prevents them from doing so. This is a conundrum since there are so few women in these fields; therefore, the culture is unlikely to change until more women enter these specialties.
- Sexism is still prominent in the medical environment for women. Women are referred to as “lady doctors” or nurses. They are often treated differently by patients and sometimes even by their peers.
My own experience as a physician
When I started my practice thirteen years ago, I would always say that I had to be at least twice as good as any male physician to be considered equal. Over a decade later, being female is still an obstacle that I have to overcome.
In the town I live in, there is a society of male physicians who have known each other for decades. When I first arrived in town, I set up meetings with these physicians to form a collaboration so that we can work together to effectively and efficiently treat patients. Some of the doctors were receptive but others would treat me as if I was a pharmaceutical representative or a young girl. Others would call me “Honey” and “Sweetie” and tell me I shouldn’t work too hard and concentrate on my family.
There were physicians who asked me why I started my own practice, since I could have easily worked for one of the male ENT physicians in town. I’ve even had patients who have become disappointed when they find out I’m not a man, and some were even upset that I wasn’t older.
I am happy to report that these incidents don’t occur often, due in part to my reputation and also in part to my growing intolerance to sexism in the twenty-first century. I personally am ready for a mindset change where the value women bring to this society is recognized and celebrated.