New Research Shows Women Doctors Still Earning Far Less Than Men

Written by yvonnethornton on February 4th, 2011

Anyone who has read my new memoir, Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy, knows that I encountered at least as much gender bias as racial bias in my career. Now, a new study by economics professor Anthony T. Lo Sasso, PhD, and coauthors, of the University Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago, shows that women doctors are routinely paid much less than their male counterparts. Worse, the gap between the pay offered male and female doctors has been widening, according to this article about the study from MedPage:

Among new physicians entering the work force, women earned almost $17,000 a year less than their male counterparts — almost regardless of which specialty they picked — according to an analysis of starting salaries over a 10-year period.

In fact, the analysis of starting salaries for more than 8,000 physicians found that the pay gap between men and women increased almost fivefold — from $3,600 in 1999 to $16,819 in 2008.

It’s great to have the pay gap out in the open, but I must take exception to the way the authors of the study seem to place the blame for lower pay on the shoulders of the women doctors. The authors speculate that the pay gap might be explained because women take jobs that give them more balance between lifestyle and career, or because women are poor negotiators.

I am married to a fellow physician, and I’m sure he’d agree that I’m a terrific negotiator, and I’ve always worked as hard, if not harder, than him or any male physician we know. This is true of all the working women I know: physicians, administrators, nurses, executives, salespeople – all women. Blaming women for bias against them is just another aspect of the bias.

The perpetuation of the myth that it’s a woman’s own fault if she’s paid less, or passed over for promotion in favor of a less qualified man, must end. We women have to cry foul every time we hear it.

It’s still true that women must work twice as hard as men to be thought half as good. Even now, in the 21st century.

Isn’t it time that changed?

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH.


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