Women Doctors Earn Less—and Not Because of the Jobs They Choose
America's women doctors aren't earning less than men because of the fields they've chosen. Even women in some of the highest-paying medical specialties make much less than their male colleagues.
Women vascular surgeons make $89,000 a year, or 20 percent, less than their male counterparts, according to a survey of 36,000 doctor salaries by Doximity, a professional networking site for doctors. Female cardiologists earn $76,000, or 18 percent, less than their male peers. Hematology has the smallest wage gap, with women earning 14 percent—$51,643—less than men with the same experience.
The survey—which controlled for doctors' ages, hours worked, and region—found a 27 percent wage gap nationally, across all specialties and geographies. When it zeroed in on various specialties, that gap narrowed but persisted. A handful of fields, including some of the best-paying ones, had wage gaps of around 20 percent.
The doctor wage gap is well-documented, with some studies finding that male doctors make almost 40 percent more than female doctors. One common explanation has been that women go into lower-paying fields, such as primary care and pediatrics. The Doximity survey appears to refute that suggestion.
"In no markets or specialities did we find that women make more than men, which is fairly surprising and upsetting," said Chris Whaley, an economist and one of the study's authors. "We might have expected in at least one market, women would make more than men, but we didn't find that. We still found a wage gap."
As more women become doctors and choose higher-paying specialties, the gap has closed somewhat—but not entirely.
Women make up 18 percent of the orthopedists under the age of 35 and 16 percent of urologists in that age group, compared with 9 percent of orthopedists and 10 percent of urologists overall, a recent Medscape survey found. Such trends have nudged the pay gap for younger doctors in all fields down to around 18 percent, compared with 36 percent for doctors aged 35 to 44, that survey found.
Still, the influx of women into medicine doesn't counteract other factors at play. "We do know, from a variety of other settings and industries, the wage gap has been linked to factors ranging from outright discrimination to differences in trainings and backgrounds and salary negotiations," said Whaley.