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Sharper negotiation skills the key to reduce cardiologist pay gap


Inequality exists between male and female cardiologist compensation, but strategies exist to narrow the difference.

Female cardiologists only make about 78.3% as much as their male counterparts, according to a recent study.  But despite this fact, a quick poll of women attending an American College of Cardiology (ACC) session on contract negotiating found that 59% would rather go to the dentist then negotiate a new contact.

The Women in Cardiology (WIC) section-sponsored program, held April 2 during the 65th annual ACC Scientific Session & Expo in Chicago, presented findings from a recent Journal of the American College of Cardiologyreport which found that, in 2015, male cardiologists made $510,996 while their female counterparts made $400,162. After adjusting for variable hours and job duties, there was still a gender compensation gap of $37,717.

“Negotiating has been one of the major challenges women need to deal with in their professional careers,” said Sandra Lewis, MD, of the Northwest Cardiovascular Institute in Portland, Oregon and section chair for WIC.

Lewis cited another study which found that, when men with an MBA negotiate their salaries they receive 4.3% more in compensation compared to female counterparts who receive 2.7% more. Assuming a starting base of $50,000 and going forward over a 50-year career, Lewis said that initial bump will generate $1.7 million for men while women will get almost $700,000 less in their career.

Woman often suffer from the “imposter syndrome,” in which they are unable to internalize their accomplishments and feel like they don’t deserve their success, Lewis said.


Another common situation is the “tiara syndrome,” which Lewis described as “where women work like maniacs hoping to get noticed and crowned.”

Claire Duvernoy, MD, associate professor of internal medicine with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, recommended that women document volunteer activities, committee assignments, and conference speaking engagements and keep their curriculum vitae up to date.

“Weekly or biweekly, write down what you’ve been doing or you will forget,” Duvernoy said.

Preparation and practice was emphasized, and attendees were urged to check out regional and specialty compensation data from the Medical Group Management Association before entering into negotiations.

“Be prepared,” Lewis said. “Negotiate with decision makers, get all issues on the table before compromising, treat the other party with respect and be unemotional.”

While researching compensation attached to relative value units is valuable, it is also important to keep track of changing payment methodology as compensation goes from volume to value.

“We’re much more responsible now for ‘killing what we eat,’” Lewis said.


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