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Gender pay gap for physicians is narrowing, but work stills needs to be done

New report shows male physician pay remained flat in 2018, while female physician pay increased.

Female physician pay increased in 2018, but male doctors still earn an average of $1.25 for every $1 earned by female counterparts, according to a new report from the nation's largest professional medical network.

The analysis, based on self-reported compensation surveys completed by approximately 90,000 full-time, licensed U.S. doctors, finds pay varies widely across metropolitan areas, medical specialties, and type of employment.

WHY IT MATTERS

Overall, national physician pay plateaued last year, according to the third-annual Physician Compensation Report from Doximity, an online networking service for  clinicians.  Metro areas with the highest average compensation for doctors were Milwaukee ($395,363), New Orleans ($384,651), and Riverside, California ($371,296), while Durham, North  Carolina ($266,180), Providence, Rhode Island ($267,013), and San Antonio ($276,224) were the lowest.

The gender pay gap dropped from 27.7 percent to 25.2 percent. Whereas in 2017, female doctors earned $105,000 less than their male counterparts, in 2018 that gap narrowed to $90,490.

Still, the gender pay gap varies widely across metropolitan areas, ranging from just 9 percent in Birmingham, Alabama to 40 percent in greater Louisville, Kentucky. Suggesting progress begets progress, the metro areas with smaller wage gaps were largely the ones that saw their gaps improve from 2017 to 2018.

The study also examines gender pay parity among medical specialities and by employment status, while providing a birds-eye view of compensation trends within those categories.

Neurosurgeons ($617,000), thoracic surgeons ($584,000), and orthopedic surgeons ($526,000) are the highest paid specialists; doctors working in pediatric infectious disease ($186,000), pediatric endocrinology (201,000), and pediatrics ($223,000) earned least.

There are no specialties where women earn more than men. The specialties with the smallest wage gaps were hematology (where female doctors made 4 percent less), rheumatology (8 percent), and radiation oncology (9 percent).

Meanwhile, the greatest pay parity exists among independent contractors, where female physicians make an average of 15.5 percent less than male counterparts. Doximity found a 21.2 percent wage gap between men and women who own or are partners in private practice. Notably, only 14 percent of private practices are owned by female physicians -- a trend likely compounded by growing consolidation in the healthcare sphere.

THE TREND

This year's report is an improvement from last year's, in which Doximity recorded a widening pay gap. But with wage gaps persisting across healthcare fields -- from doctors to IT specialists to nurses to medical researchers -- there is still work to be done. Experts have pointed to a lack of transparency around compensation as a reason for lingering gender pay disparity.

Furthermore, the Doximity authors note that amid a sharp rise in hospital mergers and acquisitions, compensation for healthcare professionals in changing. Shedding light on regional and national pay patterns can improve national understanding of why some areas and specialities might experience shortages, they said.

Deirdre Fulton is communications professional and freelance writer and editor based in Maine.
On Twitter: @deirdrefulton

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