In medicine, men generally earn more than women for similar work, but a new study published July 30 in BMJ finds that the income gap between genders shrinks substantially in practices with more equal gender distributions of staff physicians.
The analysis showed that in nonsurgical specialty practices with at least as many women as men, men earn 12 percent more than women. However, that gap nearly doubles--to 20 percent--for practices with more than 90 percent male physicians on staff.
In absolute terms, this means that in nonsurgical specialty practices with 90 percent male representation, female physicians earn as much as $91,000 less per year than their male peers.
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The study's senior author, Anupam Jena, the Ruth L. Newhouse Associate Professor of Health Care Policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School collaborated with researchers from the Rand Corporation, the University of California, Berkeley, and Doximity.
The findings offer important evidence supporting the notion that diversity in the workplace may have a positive effect on reducing earnings gaps and other inequities, the researchers said.
"There are many good reasons to have greater diversity in our workplaces, including the idea that if you make a workplace more diverse, some of the pay inequities we see will go away," Jena said. "This is exciting evidence that diversity can improve equity, not just in terms of representation, but in very tangible economic terms."
The researchers analyzed data from a national survey of physician salaries in the United States from 2014-18 that included 18,802 physicians from 9,848 group practices. They compared earnings across practices with different proportions of male and female physicians, adjusting for physician specialty, years of experience, hours worked, measures of clinical workload, practice type and geography.
Research into workplace diversity and income equity has been scant at best, the study authors said, in part because it is difficult to combine information about an individual's income and demographic information about their workplace. This survey assigned each doctor a unique practitioner identifier number, which allowed the researchers to compare information about respondents' individual incomes against demographic information about the practices where they work. Doximity conducted the survey and owns the database containing practice demographic information.