Not even earning a prestigious medical degree can insulate women from gender-based wage discrimination, a new report suggests.
The study looked at compensation surveys filled out by 36,000 full-time licensed physicians ― those who practice at least 40 hours a week ― who are members of Doximity, a social network for U.S. clinicians. It found an average pay gap of 27 percent between male and female physicians.
By comparison, the national gender pay gap for all jobs is about 17 percent.
The difference in doctors’ compensation represented a loss of $91,000 a year on average for female physicians. In calculating the gap, researchers controlled for such factors as hours worked, years in practice, medical specialty and geographic location.
In no state, no top 50 metropolitan area and not one of 48 specialties were female doctors paid on average more than their male counterparts ― or even roughly the same.
The biggest pay gap was in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro area where female doctors made 33 percent, or $125,000, less than male doctors. The smallest was in the Sacramento, California, area where female physicians made 19 percent less.
We were “surprised by the magnitude of the gender gap, especially considering that this study looked at a very highly trained and skilled sector of the workforce,” Christopher Whaley, the report’s lead author and assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health, told HuffPost.
The data in the report, released last month, doesn’t show why the gender gap exists for doctors. But Whaley speculated that the disparity could be caused in part by differences in background, training or salary negotiation. It could also be caused by sexism, directly or indirectly.
“There could be some actual bias ― either conscious or unconscious ― that is making a difference,” Whaley said.
The new survey is especially frustrating in the wake of a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in February that suggested female doctors do a better job in at least some situations. That study found hospitalized patients with Medicare were less likely to die or be readmitted within 30 days if they were treated by a female doctor instead of a male doctor.
Still, acknowledging that the pay gap exists is a step forward.
“Bringing some transparency to physician compensation may help lessen compensation disparities,” Whaley said.