Monday, May 10, 2010

Cheap labor

On my daily internet travels, I recently came across an article about women's vs. men's salaries.

In 25 of the highest paying professions, women earned less than men in every single one where they had data. And of these dismal numbers, physicians were the worst: women earned 64% of what a man in the same exact job would make! (Although that mean salary seems awfully low. Just sayin'.)

I've heard rumors that this is true, but it still surprises me if these numbers are real. What is the justification for paying a woman less then 2/3 of what you'd pay a man in the same job?


  1. I'm an exception. When I'm a partner, and have bought in, I will be making almost twice as much as my private practice physician husband. Not bragging - just sayin'.

    And that is all projection from past history. Who knows where we will all be with all the health care changes going on right now. But I have learned, at a young age, that $$ doesn't buy happiness (but it sure makes life easier). So I am going to get into a smaller house, in a position where I can afford help, to travel, and to have spending $$ for my kids. It should be easy, no matter what happens. And I've worked hard to get here, so I feel like I deserve it.

  2. Not husband - soon-to-be-ex. This is all so weird.

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  4. I have a friend who is a therapist. She went through school with a man almost her exact age (same birth month and year) they took much of the same classes. They graduated with the same BA, MA and Ph.D from the same schools at the same time. They were hired on the same day at the same clinic ..and she makes 20% less than he does.

    How she knows, I don't know. But she does. Their excuse was that with her 'responsibilities' she'd be more likely to miss. He's married, 2 kids under 15. She's divorced 2 kids over 21. She lives alone.

  5. Those numbers have to be totally off. According to those numbers, the median female doctor or surgeon only makes $300 a week more than I do as a CT tech. Maybe they are totaling all women physicians--part time or full? Who knows.

    Still sad that even today, women make that much less than men...

  6. I saw the article you're talking about I think. I really wish they'd taken into account choice of specialty and part-time status. I'm sure there'd still be a discrepancy, but I am also sure it would be smaller.

  7. Yeah, I think the numbers themselves are not accurate, but the percentages may be. But even if they're not, I have definitely heard that women earn less than men in the same jobs. I've heard the reason is because women tend to think they're worth less so ask for less money and are less willing to negotiate for a higher salary.

  8. Many moons ago (2004/5 ish), in a women's issues course, there was an article (title & by whom I cannot recall - still looking for it) that pointed out most men are full time while there are significant number of women who work part time at some point. These part time women were factored into the "full time" work salary comparisons, which lowered the overall salary of women in their respective field. So the article recalculated the percentages excluding the part timers, and the salary discrepancies were far smaller (single digits)...though unfortunately the good ol' boys still made more. Just some food for thought (and in no way justifying any pay difference!).

  9. When my Mom was buying a property with her Dad (early 70's), right before closing the bank told her they would only consider 25% of her income, in case she got pregnant and left her job. No joke.

    Perhaps the difference is due to the fact the men are more willing to move their families to where the best-paying jobs are, where women are more likely to find something that fits in with their existing life, even if that means a lower pay.

  10. We have to revisit this issue regularly, as new graduates leave residency and are clueless about negotiations. Holds for men as well, but women are more likely to be afraid of serious, businesslike negotiations. We want to please, we want to have a work situation that's good for our families, we're afraid to ask for too much.

    Almost two years ago I posted the following guest note at this site, but will reprint it to save searching:

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008
    Guest Post: Vigilance 101
    "Several decades ago I began medical school as one of five women in my class. Medical school was followed by internship/residency at a tough city hospital in the days before 80 hour work week restrictions. So I considered myself a non-pampered full-fledged member of the medical profession. But after fellowship finished I was elated with the offer of a half-time job at a university clinic. The hours would prove perfect for raising young children. Of course, half time in medicine means 50% pay for at least 75% time. I worked 5 days per week, 6 hours each day, straight through lunch, so I could finish the workload and get home at a reasonable time. Outside of the regular clinic hours I was also responsible for any of my patients that were hospitalized and for every other week 24/7 on-call. But it was all tolerable because of the flexibility. I essentially job-shared with a near retirement age physician who had raised a large family and he was welcoming of my bringing children to work on the occasional school holiday or child care emergency day.

    My rude awakening was the chance spotting of a young male physician at the shopping mall one mid-week afternoon.

    “Hi – are you on vacation this week?”

    “No – Wednesdays are my discretionary time”

    “Discretionary time???????”

    “Yes – the day I don’t see patients. It’s the time I write my book, review residency training curriculum, do phone conferences…”

    OK, I calculate. He’s my age, same amount of training, hired by the same university division. I work 5 days x 6 hours = 30 hours in clinic for 50% pay. He works 4 days x 8 hours = 32 hours in clinic for 100% pay. I did register a complaint which did nothing but label me troublemaker, but I was attached enough to my work hours that I didn’t pursue legal action. (That’s another story for when children were older).

    Fast forward to August 3, 2008, The Outlook Section of The Washington Post. There’s an op-ed article by a physician bemoaning the current state of patient care in primary care medicine. No argument, primary care medicine is dying for a variety of economic reasons. But wait – our author has an answer. He claims there’s a “silver lining” in that many more women are entering medicine. Women tend to migrate to primary care fields, and they are documented to spend more time with patients even if they don’t get paid more. So there we go – cheap, undervalued labor is still with us!"

    I'm now in private practice and happily set my own hours/ pay/benefits. But in-between that first university job and present situation I've been through a number of university and hospital positions, and gradually learned that women need to be very business like. Hiring an expensive contract attorney for my last job was the best thing I did, because when the hospital dissolved our group practice, only two of us received a financial settlement instead of being cast aside. And that was because of good legal representation.

  11. I read your post/comment at a stoplight on the way home, Dr. Nana - such great advice.

    I talked to women who got jobs doing part time pathology to have time for caring for and growing their own family - they ended up frustrated that they were working as hard and almost as much as everyone else without equal salary or benefits. It is also hard, in path, to find an equal work-sharing situation unless you have the ideal part-time partner. Working part-time can also draw unwarranted derision from full-time partners who think they are better/smarter/etc. because you are only part time (I've seen it happen - don't pretend that it doesn't). "Women who have kids aren't as good career women."

    I have also seen residents walk into nightmare private practice situations with either senior partners slaving junior partners and/or horrible political unrest between partners that was covered up until families were moved and lives altered. Tough, but not impossible, to undo.

    I decided to suck it up and work hard to get to the gold. Well, maybe I didn't know as many school moms when my kids were younger - I spent all my free time with my kids, not other moms - but I am getting to know some now and with more vacation every year life is truly sweet. I agree Dr. Nana. Do your research. Be smart about your decision, and get a lawyer if necessary. Be willing to move to get in a happy situation.

  12. To answer your question, the justification for paying a woman less, on average, than a man is that women tend to make choices which limit their pay: flexibility of living in a particular place, flexibility in hours or part-time status, the particular speciality that women tend to choose, the acceptance of lower pay to avoid the hassle of negotiation and so forth. It has nothing to do with discrimination on the basis of gender, but only the priorities and choices women make which differ from men.

  13. Hmm, I think those numbers are off. I know for a fact I was offered more as a starting salary and better signing and production bonuses than my male counterparts when I graduated from residency. (We all shared info and read each other's contracts so we could offer suggestions and figure out how to negotiate and what to negotiate for)

    When I tried to quit my first job to spend more time with my family, my boss offered to keep me at the same salary but decrease me to 20hrs/week. Ultimately, it's about how much money you're making for them and whether or not you're willing to walk. I made him a lot of money. The most important thing is to know you're own worth and sometimes you'll only know that by entertaining multiple offers and playing them off of each other.

    Medicare and private insurances pay the same fees to male and female physicians. So if you're really concerned you can always open your own practice.

  14. Anon 9:30: data is not the plural of anecdote. You should know that.




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