According to a huge new research, female physicians earn less than their male colleagues from their very first days on the job and throughout their careers. According to the study, this salary disparity accumulates to at least $2 million over the course of a 40-year career.
More than 80,000 doctors took part in the survey, which was published on Monday in the medical journal Health Affairs. It is the biggest study of physician compensation to date, and it is the first to assess the cumulative effect of pay discrepancies in medicine.
It was possible to discern a significant difference between Year 1 and Year 40, according to Christopher Whaley, the study’s primary author and a health economist at the impartial RAND Corporation, which conducted the research.
Dr. Whaley’s team examined survey data gathered between 2014 and 2019 to come up with their findings. He believes the wage disparity has grown since then, as the epidemic has forced women in many areas, including medicine, to leave the workforce in order to care for children and other home duties, resulting in a reduction in their total career earnings.
Using self-reported wage data given to Doximity, a social networking site similar to LinkedIn that claims to reach 80 percent of physicians in the United States, the researchers conducted their analysis. The researchers calculated that, throughout a hypothetical 40-year career, male doctors earned an average of $8.3 million, while female physicians earned around $6.3 million – a nearly 25 percent disparity in earnings between men and women with the same amount of experience.
A variety of criteria that have a significant impact on income, such as a doctor’s speciality, practise type, and patient volume, were taken into consideration by the researchers when making their estimates.
For example, more males than women enter the field of surgery, which is the highest-paid of all medical specialities, but more women enter the field of primary care. Furthermore, it has been shown that women spend more time with their patients, resulting in a smaller amount of services and procedures that may be invoiced for by hospitals.
Dr. Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist and bioethicist at the University of Michigan medical school who was not involved in the current analysis, stated that some of these measurements are “themselves the probable indications of institutional prejudice or discrimination.” For example, investigations have shown pervasive discrimination against women who seek for occupations in medicine that have historically or mostly been occupied by males, such as physicians. In addition, women in academic medicine are less likely to get large research funds or to assume leadership roles in their respective fields.
According to the researchers, if they had not taken these factors into consideration, the predicted wage disparity would have been much higher. “Our numbers would more than double,” Dr. Whaley said emphatically.
Within specialisations, the estimated compensation differences were significant: the greatest among surgeons, at almost $2.5 million, and the lowest among general care doctors, at around $920,000.
Despite the fact that wage disparities have shrunk across all sectors over the last several decades, women are still paid less than males in virtually all occupations. Furthermore, the disparity is greater among health care practitioners than it is among persons working in computer and engineering fields, for example.
The current study did not include information on those who identify as nonbinary or transgender, nor did it include information on the race of those who responded to the poll, which has been proven in previous studies to be an important factor determining physician salary.
Dr. Whaley said that salary information by race is “not routinely kept anywhere” at this time. “And I believe that this is a significant data restriction.”
Specifically, the research discovered that pay differences started to increase at the beginning of a doctor’s career and continued to expand until roughly Year 10 without recovering. It remained steady for the remainder of their professional lives, with women never catching up to males in terms of earnings.
“This finding is distressing, yet not surprising.” The American Medical Association reports that “women physicians, who are in the prime of their reproductive years when they begin practise, experience insufficient maternity leave, inadequate support upon return to work, and an unequally disproportionate burden of child care in the subsequent years.”
Despite the fact that women graduate from medical school in nearly the same proportion as men, women account for just 36% of all practising doctors. Because the current research did not track people over time, it was unable to capture the consequences of this “leaky pipeline” on women’s cumulative wages, according to Dr. Jain, who explained that the study was limited in scope.
According to Dr. Whaley, the results show that policy changes that favour younger physicians might help to close the salary difference between the two groups. He believes that increasing paid family leave and schedule flexibility, as well as making pay more transparent, might assist women in earning their fair part of the pie.