Female physicians earn millions less than male counterparts, new report finds

A new study on the gender pay gap in medicine examined earnings data from more than 80,000 doctors.

Over the course of a career, the gender gap in earnings among doctors reaches seven figures, a new study has found.

Women doctors earn $2 million less than male physicians over a 40-year career, according to a study published Dec. 6 in Health Affairs. In primary care, female physicians earned about $900,000 less over their careers, the study found.

Other studies have documented the disparity in earnings between men and women doctors. However, this new study is the first to capture the impact over the length of a career, said Christopher Whaley, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and lead author of the study.

He didn’t expect the career earnings gap to reach $2 million.

“That was a surprising number to see,” Whaley said in a phone interview with Chief Healthcare Executive. “That really is a stark difference in pay.”

Over the course of a simulated 40-year career, male physicians earned $8.31 million, while female doctors earned $6.26 million, the study found.

The disparities in compensation varied among different types of doctors. The gender gap in earnings was largest among surgical specialists, Among non-surgical specialists, women earned $1.6 million less.

The study also examined the 10 most common specialties and found substantial pay disparities in each one. The smallest gap was seen in emergency medicine physicians, but the difference was still $621,952. The largest disparity among those 10 specialties was found in orthopedic surgery ($1,530,006).

It’s worth noting the study focused on full-time clinicians who typically aren’t in academic practice, Whaley said. The study may not fully capture the difficulties women have in choosing higher paying specialties.

“Our study probably understates the true differences in pay,” Whaley said.

Editor's note: This article excerpt was first published in our partner publication, Chief Healthcare Executive. Go there for the full report.