Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why Do Women Get Paid Less Than Men In Medicine?

A recent posting on KevinMD lamented the lower pay that female doctors make. Written by Dr. Linda Brodsky, it listed the following statistics: women make $0.62 for every dollar a male doctor makes. Women start their medical careers already in the hole by $17,000 compared to men. Mid-career female medical researchers make $12,000 a year less than their male counterparts. Her solutions to the problem are for women to understand their market values better and learn to negotiate a better contract.

While having sharp negotiating skills is valuable, I doubt that that alone will bring equality to female physicians' incomes. Here is what I see when people complain that women make less money than men.

The female doctors in our group have a predilection for calling in sick on the day they're supposed to take call. Then the male doctors, because we really don't have a choice, have to step in and take call for them. The after work plans we had made to be with our own families are discarded because somebody has to step up and take responsibility for patient care. It wouldn't be so bad except the favor is rarely returned.

Our female colleagues often seem to have an excuse to want to leave work early. Either their babysitter cannot stay after 5:00 PM or they have to attend the Women in Medicine Book Club and discuss Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh my! Thus cases are left hanging in the operating room for the men to pick up.

New female colleagues are always eager to start working. But lo and behold, many soon get pregnant shortly afterwards. Then they cannot work in rooms that are too strenuous, require exposure to X-rays like spine cases or interventional radiology, or last too long into the evening. On top of that, they expect to take a month off for maternity leave. Naturally the work load and call schedules then have to be covered by the guys to make sure the O.R. runs properly.

Even though they work fewer hours than their male comrades, they also want the same year end bonus that the men get. Is this the part where Dr. Brodsky's advice for better negotiating skills comes into play?

Call me sexist. Call me a chauvinist. You can even make oinking noises at my expense. I'm just calling it like I see it. Women make less money than men in medicine, but there are good reasons for that. And it has nothing to do with sex discrimination.


  1. You should submit this to KevinMD as an OpEd.

  2. I agree with anonymous.

    And I also agree with YOU. I'm not a gasser (or an MD of any kind) but calling in sick when scheduled to work is a sticking point. And my own experience is that women do it more than men do. Child care should be a responsibility shared between both parents (and I say that as a husband who recently took more of a week-long child care sick call than did the wife).

    But do you want to establish credibility as a team player? Then don't call in sick (especially on a busy day) unless you're going to the ED as a patient yourself (and, preferably, being admitted).

    Avoiding x-ray cases, I understand. But "too strenuous"? "Last too long into the evening"? That's BS. Do or do not, there is no try.

  3. This is ridiculous. Maybe women call in more than men, BECAUSE they are being paid less. Open your eyes. If you knew that the woman standing next to you, with the same qualifications, earned $1 when you only earn 67 cents... how would you feel? Probably like giving up and going home. Also, not all women "call in to read fifty shades of grey". You cannot use your sample size to speak for all women. It is simply not fair for anyone to earn more just because of what is in their pants.

  4. I've been working in a hospital as a receptionist for seven years and I do not agree with this at all. I have seen many of the male doctors call off "sick" just to find out they went to play golf. More often than men, the women doctors who call off actually have valid reasons (children, pregnancy, sickness etc...). The person who wrote this article puts a negative connotation on pregnancy as well... as if a woman who is working shouldn't be able to get pregnant. Last line... "And it has nothing to do with sex discrimination." If you give a forwarning, "Call me sexist. Call me a chauvinist," I think it might have to do with sex discrimination a bit. Get your head out of your Sphincter.

  5. I totally agree with the last two comments. If I end up entering the medical field after college, I expect to be payed the same amount as a man only if I work just as hard as him. Someone who lumps women all into one stereotypical category is ignorant; as a woman who does not plan on having children and has never read one word of fifty shades, I can say for sure that if I end up in the medical field after college and find that my compensation is being determined based on my gender and not my ability or workload, I will view that as discrimination.