Disparities in pay based on gender are, unfortunately, a persistent problem in our country for all sectors, including healthcare. Women physicians have been up against the gender pay gap for decades, yet they continue to rally for equal pay. Cardiologist Yasmine S. Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP, notes that in her own decades-long career, she is a victim of this inequity. During the start of her cardiology career, she was offered $50,000 less than a somewhat less qualified male candidate. To add insult to injury, his job description involved less clinical work than Dr. Ali’s. Nonetheless, he was offered $50,000 more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. To emphasize the significance of this discrepancy, Dr. Ali explains that this rate, women physicians earn $125,000 less than their male colleagues after practicing for 5 years. That’s a whopping $500,000 per decade. At 20 years of work, male physicians will have amassed $1 million more than their female counterparts in base salary alone, even though some of the men have both fewer job qualifications and fewer job responsibilities than female physicians.
Women Doctors Are Playing a Constant Game of Catch-Up
Dr. Ali notes that not only do these inequities make pay raise negotiations more challenging for women physicians, but they also create a domino effect when it comes to future job applications, as women must present prospective employers with an already unjust starting point as their previous base salary. As a result, women are playing a constant, seemingly unattainable game of catch-up.
Based on a male colleague’s advice, Dr. Ali suggests that female physicians insist upon being paid whatever salary would result in equitable pay. They should insist upon a minimum annual raise, with consideration of inflation and increasing valuation of their medical services as they gain experience, built into their contracts.
Dr. Ali urges women physicians not to shy away from negotiating, as negotiations are generally expected when discussing a contract. As such, she recommends always being one’s own best advocate and asking for more than the initial pay offer. Even if a candidate’s desired compensation is not granted, they may get something close to it. According to an article published in Business Insider, many states legally require salary-range transparency. Female physicians should take advantage of this by researching what they should be making and using that information during contract negotiations. Alternatively, Dr. Ali suggests that negotiations could benefit physicians in other ways, like a director-level title or a more flexible schedule.