Science, Now + Beyond

If you’re a female doctor, prepare for this awful fact

The wage gap is as high as women receiving $43,728 less in some fields.

Gender inequality exists everywhere. And as women, we see it everywhere. From the classroom to the workplace, we are underestimated, objectified, and harassed. Gender inequality manifests itself in various ways throughout society. Probably one of the most recent causes in the fight for equality has been equal pay.

We’ve all heard about it. We all, more or less, know it exists. We’ve all heard the statistic: women make 79 cents on every dollar that men make. That’s only an average. Although this average is important to fight for the rights of all women, more specified research can give insights into gender discrimination and inequality in particular fields.

A study conducted by Anupam B. Jena on Monday, published by the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, gave shocking reports of the wage gap and gender inequality for professors in the medical field. Taking data from 24 U.S. public medical schools, Jena compiled and drew conclusions from this data, cited by some as the largest ever research done on professional gender inequality in this field. The report found that women physicians make 8% less than male physicians when adjusted for variables such as age, years of experience, specialty, rank, research productivity, and payments by Medicare.

Jena also broke down the difference in pay by specialty. The differences range from a mere $863 in radiology in the unadjusted category (and a whopping $2,378 dollars in adjusted) to amounts as high as $43,728 in surgery.

When compiling data, I imagine it’s almost nearly impossible to attempt to equate these employees. Every person is different, with their own strengths and weakness that they bring to the table. Many who have donned the wage gap a “myth,” have cited these differences in character to the differences in salary rather than discrimination. 

Jena’s study put those factors into question, adjusting for the variables that people have oftentimes used to defend the lack of inequality. Although there was no way that this study could have accurately reflected the actual personality differences between each of these people, it did its best to work those differences into the study.

Throughout the report, it was clear that there is discrimination based on sex within the academic medical field. Women are paid less and are less likely to become tenured professors (who are paid significantly more). These specialized studies are the key to eliminating the wage gap. Almost every profession, most of which have been historically male-dominated, has a problem with wage fairness.

Although different techniques may be useful across the board, each field must be looked at individually in order to combat the wage gap. With the results of this study, we can look into the specialty of radiology, which had virtually no wage gap, and analyze it as a measure to reduce and eventually eliminate gender inequality in other medical fields. However, the wage gap can only be eliminated if everyone admits it’s real.

Further than that however, is realizing that the wage gap is not always blatant discrimination. It is often subconscious discrimination. We would like to think people are paid based on their personal strengths and differences, but the wage gap is a product of implicit, subconscious discriminationIt is the assumption that women with children cannot do their job as well as those without. The assumption that women are less driven or dedicated than men. It is also the mere fact that there have historically been fewer women in the medical profession than men, so when we think “doctor,” we think “man.” Just Google “doctor,” a significant number of those images are men. It is that kind of implicit bias that helps drives the wage gap.