Gender discrimination in medicine prevalent in the form of lower pay, inappropriate conduct, survey finds

December 12, 2019

Unconscious bias is the main cause of gender discriminations against female doctors.

Most female physicians have experienced gender discrimination in the form of lower pay or inappropriate words or actions from fellow physicians, according to a new survey by physician search firm Merritt Hawkins.

Of these female physicians, 75 percent experienced inappropriate words or actions from fellow physicians, 57 percent experienced them from managers or employers, and 56 percent have received lower compensation than their male colleagues, the survey says.

“Women are entering medicine in record numbers and are having a profound impact on the medical profession,” Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Merritt Hawkins, says in a news release distributed with the survey results.   “However, despite these achievements, female physicians continue to be paid less than their male counterparts and face other forms of workplace discrimination.”

The survey results show that about 40 percent of female doctors are currently earning less than male physicians within their specialty. Of those, 73 percent said they had received a smaller base salary or production bonus than their male counterparts suggesting that the disparity in pay starts early in the female physician’s career.

About 74 percent of respondents believed that male physicians earn more even when choice of specialty and hours worked are accounted for, and 76 percent identified unconscious employer discrimination as the cause, the survey said.

“While employers may judge two candidates for the same job to be equally qualified, they may unconsciously imbue the male candidate with more financial value than the female candidate,” Singleton says in the release. “Even though female physicians are just as highly sought after as males, many female physicians believe their equal value is not reflected in their employment contracts.” 

About 68 percent of the respondents said the second most important reason female doctors received lower pay was because they are less aggressive or adept at salary negotiation than their male peers. Other reasons identified by those surveyed include:

·      Conscious employer discrimination

·      Female doctors spending more time with patients than male doctors

·      Female doctors are less likely to own their practice

As various surveys have indicated that female doctors have higher rates of burnout than their male peers, 73 percent of respondents to the Merritt Hawkins survey said gender discrimination has diminished their morale and career satisfaction. Also, 44 percent of respondents said that gender discrimination has led them to seek another practice setting and 32 percent said it has caused them to consider early retirement.

“Gender discrimination is more than just a challenge for individual doctors,” Singleton said.  “When it diminishes the overall supply of physicians, it becomes a matter of public health.” 

The full results of the survey can be found here.

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