Discrepancies in pay between women and men in the workforce is, unfortunately, not a novel occurrence, and the medical field offers no exceptions. According to Timothy Hoff, PhD, a legitimate crisis exists regarding women physicians’ earnings potential. Women comprise 50% of total first-year medical school students in the United States and approximately 33% of practicing physicians. Nonetheless, women physicians earn considerably less money than men for doing the same kind of work.
A study published in JAMA Network Open looked at earnings data for women and men physicians across 45 subspecialties, including pediatric medicine—both general pediatrics and pediatric subspecialties, such as gastroenterology and rheumatology. Estimated starting salaries for female physicians were lower than that of their male counterparts in all but a mere three of the 45 examined subspecialties. While pediatric nephrology was one of only two specialties studied with a net present value that was higher in women and in men, in general nephrology, men had approximately $30,000 higher starting salaries and approximately $20,000 higher salaries after 10 years of employment.
While the aforementioned study focuses on gender-based pay disparities within subspecialties, the same issue exists between subspecialties. According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, subspecialties with higher representation of women physicians often result in overall lower compensation for both women and men. As the percentage of women physicians in a given subspecialty increases by 10%, the median salary for men decreases by $7,465, and the median salary for women decreases by a staggering $15,003.
Authors of the JAMA Pediatrics study suggest equalizing salaries from the outset, rather than equalizing salary growth rates, as the latter strategy does not effectively amend the issue of unequal pay. According to the authors, new physicians do not have many differentiating factors besides gender, so equalizing pay across genders should not be an issue.
Another recommended strategy would be for schools to institute periodic compensation evaluations and adjustments. This would both prevent gender-based earning disparities from the outset and fix already present disparities. The authors also suggest that medical schools and postgraduate training programs could be of great help to women physicians by providing negotiating skills and financial literacy courses. Rather than placing the burden of achieving equal pay upon women physicians, medical institutions and leadership figures should take action to ensure the elimination of gender-based inequitie.