The XX Factor

The Gender Pay Gap In Medicine Is Abominable. Here’s Where It’s Worst.

How is this fair?


A newly published survey of more than 36,000 U.S. physicians has pinpointed the metropolitan area where doctors experience the widest gender pay gap: Charlotte, North Carolina. There, the average female physician gets paid only two-thirds as much as the average male physician, making for an annual gap of about $125,000.

The survey comes from Doximity, a social network for doctors, and collected compensation reports from licensed, full-time physicians from 2014 to 2017. Researchers found that the average national gender pay gap among survey respondents was 26.5 percent, or more than $91,000 a year, after controlling for specialty, geography, years of experience, and reported weekly work hours.

Interestingly, two of the top five metro areas with the country’s largest gender wage gaps are also in the top five places with the highest-paid doctors. The average physician in Charlotte makes $359,455 a year, the highest of the cities in the survey, while the lowest-paid doctors are less than 150 miles away, making $267,598 in Durham, North Carolina. Bridgeport, Connecticut, had the second-highest paid doctors (they make an average $353,925 a year) and the fifth-worst gender pay gap (29 percent, or $110,582). But Durham also has the country’s second-largest physician pay gap (31 percent), and Phoenix boasts both one of the highest average pay rates and one of the smallest pay gaps, suggesting that unequal pay persists in all pay ranges.

Though the Midwest and Southeast U.S. have a disproportionate share of the largest gaps, female doctors get paid less than their male peers across the country. The smallest gap researchers found was still 19 percent, or $63,283, in Sacramento, California. Researchers found no medical specialty, no state, and no metro area where women earn close to what comparable male doctors do. The widest intra-specialty wage gaps were in pediatric rheumatology, gastroenterology, pediatric endocrinology, occupational medicine, and vascular surgery.

Last year, a JAMA analysis of the salaries of 10,241 academic physicians reported an absolute gender wage gap of $51,315 a year, which dropped to $19,878 when the authors controlled for age, experience, specialty, faculty ranking, and frequency of published research. This is a much narrower gap than the one reported by Doximity. The difference may be attributable to different methods of controlling for mitigating factors, or the stricter salary stages in some university workplaces. But even the JAMA study found astonishingly wide gaps within some specialties: Female neurosurgeons and cardiothoracic surgeons got paid $44,000 less per year than men with comparable education and experience. Male obstetrician-gynecologists, whose patients are almost all women, made an average of $36,000 more each year than female doctors in their field.