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Women in healthcare face more harassment, have fewer opportunities and lower wages, study shows

Women believe they have fewer opportunities for leadership, with less than half feeling they have the same chances as men.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Women in medicine continue to face significant gender-based obstacles in the workplace, according to a new study, 2019 Women in Medicine, a by CompHealth. Both female and male physician respondents reported that women experience increased harassment, fewer opportunities and lower wages.

Although both women (83%) and men (73%) indicated a belief that the medical industry has an issue with harassment, women see and experience the brunt of it, and the challenges between genders are not always the same.

Discrimination and sexual harassment are most common among women, with just 12% reporting they have never dealt with any form of sexual harassment, compared to 38% of men. Women are also more likely to report experiencing insubordination, retaliation and physical violence.

Only 34% of women believe that women and men are equally respected in their organizations, compared to 69% of men. Women are also significantly more likely to believe they are treated differently than their male peers in all aspects of the profession, including by administrators, other physicians, nurses and patients.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Women recently overtook men in the number of students entering medical school, suggesting a future with more female physicians than males. However, men still outnumber women in medical practice, and this inequity appears to compound perceptions of gender-based challenges.

One of those perceptions is that women physicians have fewer opportunities for leadership. Although women (63%) and men (69%) report similar levels of confidence in their ability to fulfill career aspirations, just half of women (49%) believe they have the same chances as men. More than 70% of male physicians believe both genders have equal opportunity. Women are also less likely to believe that promotions are given to the most deserving employees or based on fair criteria.

Another perception is that the gender pay gap is alive and well in medicine. Nearly half of women (46%) in the medical profession believe they are paid less than men, while the vast majority of men (81%) believe pay levels are about the same. The hard numbers indicate the women are correct: 46% of female physicians reported making less than $200,000, compared to just 28% of men.

Women are also more likely to sacrifice their careers and time for families, according to respondents. Women were much more likely to have worked reduced hours to care for children or family members (46%) compared to men (29%). Women were also more likely than men to have taken significant time off, worked part-time, turned down a promotion or quit a job. Nearly three-quarters of women had delayed starting a family due to career demands, compared to half of men.

THE LARGER TREND

The 2019 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, published in April, found that while U.S. physicians increased their earnings over the past year, the gender disparity in compensation increased by 6 percentage points, with men earning 25 percent more than women, up from 18 percent more in 2018.

While the report found that women see patients an average of four fewer hours per week, and gravitate towards the lower paid specialties, those factors do not fully explain the pay differences.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com