New Jersey female physicians make less than their male counterparts, a new study shows. Experts attribute the wage gap to outdated employment structures and cultural discrimination.
Significant gaps in U.S. doctor compensation exist across 48 specialties, major cities and genders, said research scientists from Doximity, a national online network for doctors.
The report showed the average wage gap in New Jersey was as much as 30 percent, one of the highest in the Northeast.
“Employment structures, such as policies and practices and cultures simply don’t promote the kind of flexibility that would lead to greater engagement for women in workplaces,” said Stacy Hawkins, an expert in employment law and associate professor of law at Rutgers University-Camden.
Doximity’s report is based off a national survey of 36,000 physicians. Researchers made adjustments for hours worked and other factors that may affect wages.
With a doctor shortage facing the communities and the health care industry in the next couple years, experts are trying to identify features of a good work environment, including sufficient pay.
According to the report, pay for female physicians in New Jersey falls short of that mark by $104,000, on average.
“Disparities in compensation directly affect the distribution of physicians around the country, which can impact patient care directly,” said Chris Whaley, lead author of the study and adjunct assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, in a statement.
Philadelphia, home to many hospitals, health centers and research programs, was the top seventh metro area in the country of the lowest average annual salaries for female physicians, according to the report.
The largest gender-pay gaps for doctors are in vascular surgery, occupational medicine and pediatric endocrinology.
Hawkins said what makes the medical community stand out in compensation rates is perhaps a lack of transparency in salary ranges.
Studies show the wage gap between men and women physicians begins early in their careers, Hawkins said. In her own field of law, the wage gap is much smaller among entry-level professionals, because beginning salary ranges for law firm associates are widely known among employers and employees.
However, wage gaps in most professions grow as time goes on, she said.
“If your entering salary is a couple thousand different from men, that difference is not only compounded every time there is a raise, but every time there is a salary renegotiation, it becomes a new time to reintroduce disparities,” she said.
Lack of knowledge or experience among women in salary negotiation is one of several reasons why Laurie Dutton, director of Stockton University’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Center, said the university will offer workshops for university students, female staff and faculty in the fall.
Being proactive in asking for the right salary from the start can be important for women to achieve careers, buy homes, have children and save for retirement, Dutton said.
“Men have been taught to not be afraid to ask for what they want,” she said. “They are taught by our communities in various ways how to effectively negotiate for what they want, and they are often rewarded for it. Women, however, often do not want to ‘offend’ anyone by asking for what they want.”
Equal pay and discrimination laws have helped women in the workplace as a whole, but Hawkins said employers may still be structured in ways that result in women getting paid less than their counterparts.
Also, stereotypes and discrimination about women’s roles and work in the workplace, as well as their roles outside of their jobs, like childbearing and care giving, add to gender disparities as well, Hawkins said.
Changes in employment structures and policies alongside a shift in cultural norms and expectations are both needed to improve workplace environments for women and generate a possible decrease in gender wage gaps, Hawkins said.
“(Past improvements) have mattered, and they’ve moved the dial, not really as far or fast as we’d like, but they’ve led to shifts,” she said. “The more we see shifts occur on both these fronts, the more benefits we see accrue for women and their roles in the workplace.”