(Reuters Health)—In internal medicine, women earn less than men even when they’re in the same specialty and working the same hours in similar types of medical practices, a U.S. study suggests.
Overall, half of male internists have annual salaries of at least $250,000, compared with $200,000 for female internists, the analysis of survey data from 374 full-time physicians found. That translates into women earning 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, researchers reported Aug. 7 online in Annals of Internal Medicine.1
“Compensation in medicine is extremely complex and often opaque,” said study co-author Renee Butkus, director of health policy at the American College of Physicians in Washington, D.C.
Total compensation can include base salaries, stipends for other positions, various productivity standards, clinical and nonclinical support, and office and laboratory space, Butkus says by email. Still, it can be hard for women in medicine to figure out whether, or why, they’re earning less than men.
“Women in medicine face other challenges, including a lack of mentors, discrimination, gender bias, cultural environment of the workplace, imposter syndrome and the need for better work–life integration,” Butkus adds. “These all have an impact on career advancement and compensation, and a concerted effort must be made to address all of these things to realize the full potential of women in medicine.”
For the survey, researchers asked what physicians for their estimated annual income before taxes, including any salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For physicians who owned businesses, researchers asked about earnings after tax-deductible business expenses but before income tax.
Women earned less than men in every internal medicine specialty, ranging from a gap of $29,000 for internal medicine specialists to a gap of $45,000 for sub-specialists.
Among physicians who owned practices, women typically earned $72,500 less than men each year.
When women were employees rather than business owners, they generally earned $43,000 a year less than men.
For doctors who spent most of their time providing direct patient care, women’s annual income lagged what men made by about $37,500.
When doctors had management or administrative roles, women earned about $52,500 a year less than men.
Gender differences in salary were the same regardless of whether doctors had children.
One limitation of the study is that only about 56% of physicians invited to participate in the survey did so.
All of the survey participants were members of the American College of Physicians, and it’s also possible their responses don’t reflect income of internists who weren’t members or of physicians in other medical specialties.