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Gender pay disparities in healthcare pronounced at the beginning of careers

What was particularly troubling is that the trend appears to be getting worse, with the salary gap widening over time.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Disparities in physician pay based on gender is unfortunately nothing new, but a new report finds that the difference is pronounced right from the get-go. As young physicians begin their careers, males on average make $36,600 more than their female counterparts.

Looking at data from 1999 to 2017, the report, published in Health Affairs, found that the average starting compensation for men was $235,044. For women, the figure was $198,462. Those numbers are based on survey data from for graduating medical residents and fellows in New York.


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What was particularly troubling is that the trend appears to be getting worse, with the salary gap widening over time.

There may be some explanation for why that's the case. For the years between 2014 and 2017, the survey incorporated questions about work-life balance and found that having control over the work-life balance was more important for women than for men -- causing women to frequently choose primary care as their specialty, which tends to pay a lower salary.

Other facets of work-life balance, however, had little to no effect on the gap in starting salary, including the desire for control over stressors such as length of the workday, predictable hours and weekend duty.

This means the work-life balance issue alone isn't enough to explain the starting salary gap. In all, only about 60% of the gap in starting salary could be explained primarily by differences in specialty and hours spent in patient care.


The pay disparities aren't just limited to physicians. Nurses experience much the same phenomenon.

Even though the proportion of men working as nurses is still pretty small, they tend to make more than women in the same roles, perpetuating a gender-related wage gap, according to a Medscape survey.

Male registered nurses who are on salary made 10% more than women, and hourly male nurses made 5% more. There weren't enough male licensed practical nurses on salary to make a meaningful comparison, but those who were hourly still made about 7% more than women.

All told, men accounted for just 9% of RNs and 8% of LPNs in the survey.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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