KevinMD has a look at why there is such a gender gap in physician salaries. The obvious solutions, such as specialty choice or work hours, don’t appear to apply in this case. What’s particularly interesting is that the gender gap has grown hugely since 1999 despite the fact that women are moving away from lower-paying primary care jobs into higher-paying specialties. Yet, even “it’s sexism!” doesn’t work, unless one believes that sexism has increased so dramatically over the last few years.
I’m actually dumbfounded, though at the same time not particularly surprised. Now, given my wife’s career I am ten kinds of biased here, but there are a number of issues that female doctors seem to have that male doctors do not. Back in residency, there was an ongoing issue between the female doctors and the obstetrical nurses. One female resident chose to go without obstetrical training in order to not have to deal with them anymore. And to be honest, there have been ongoing issues not just between my wife and nursing staffs, but between nursing staffs and female doctors more generally. How is this pertinent? Well, because a hostile work environment is not conducive to career maximization. There have also been issues with male coworkers, particularly in Deseret, though at least where my wife has been that has been less of an issue.
Another issue is the disruption caused by family. My wife’s relationship with her current employer has long been… cagey, for lack of a better term. She has been looking to make some changes so that we can serve out the contract and they have not been very accommodating at all. For a while we wandered if they wanter her to go. But that made no sense because the shortage at the moment is so severe that my wife’s departure could lead to the ending of obstetrical care for the town of Callie. Anyhow, a few weeks ago someone let slip why they didn’t feel that accommodating Clancy was a good investment: she’s trying to get pregnant. So she’s probably leaving anyway, or is otherwise going to be gone for a significant portion of the contract. When a male doctor has children, it can be completely outsourced to the wife. When a female doctor does, it can’t. One way or another, this has to show up in salaries.
But none of this explains why it would have gotten so much worse over the last several years. If anything, it should be getting better as female doctors become more typical and they start going into the specialties. The only thing I can think of is that there has been an increasing stratification of doctor pay within the last decade or so where you have more and more profit-maximizing places popping up and women are choosing not to be a part of that. The last time my wife looked for a job, there was one posted (for which she was qualified) that made $400k a year, which is more than twice what she is currently making. And you see a fair number of these. I suspect that they are almost never filled by women, because women are less interested and women are less likely to get the job if they are (I suspect career interruptions are not well received in such environments).
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