Physician Pay Gap: Female Doctors Earn 25% Less Than Male Doctors

Female doctors, who account for a third of all doctors in the United States, are still not earning as much as their male counterparts earned 20 years ago.

Researchers posted their findings in JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this month. Their data indicated a pay gap of more than $50,000 per year between female and male doctors’ incomes in 2010 – a difference of 25 percent. Female physicians’ median income was $165,278 between 2006 and 2010, which is still two percent lower than male physicians’ median income ($168,795) in 1990.

However, the data were insufficient to draw more specific conclusions based on physician specialty. This leaves the findings open to greater interpretation based on the question of opportunity versus preference: are female physicians choosing specialties with lower pay scales, or are they being turned away from preferred higher-pay specialties in favor of male physicians?

The research team has indicated that there is considerable room for further study into the reasons for the income disparity between genders. Based on their findings, there could be interesting implications for physician pay models in the future.

A survey by WebMD-affiliated Medscape, meanwhile, indicates an income disparity of 30 percent between male and female physicians (17 percent in primary care) and illustrates the difference in pay between several different specialties. They ascribe much of the gap to choice of specialty, though they acknowledge that set, regular schedules do a great deal to close that gap in large health systems. Last year’s report suggested a difference in the number of hours worked contributed to income disparity.

Of course, the reality of the income gap has a very important implication for private practitioners in the present: the cost of doing business is not adjusted for a provider’s gender, meaning that rising costs pose a greater threat to the success of a female physician’s practice than to a male physician’s practice. Private practice medical factoring can offset that pay gap and allow doctors of both genders to continue providing top-quality care to their patients.