Exploring the Physician Gender Pay Gap

Pay equity continues to elude female doctors. Learn how a recruiter’s advocacy can help level the playing field.


While women physicians have made strides toward pay equity in the last decade, there is still a long way to go before the gender pay gap is eliminated.

In March, we recognize, honor and celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8), Women’s History Month and Equal Pay Day — a day that marks how far into the year a woman must work to equal a man’s earnings from the previous year.

Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D) physician recruiter Molly Bell shares her insights from her years of partnering with women physicians in their job search journey.

“The contract and negotiation process can be extensive and intimidating,” Molly says. “Women can feel nervous or hesitant around negotiating, but I encourage them to embrace these discussions. Through my years of experience, I’m able to help them feel prepared for what will happen at every step, and comfortable enough to ask for what they want and need.”

The Gender Pay Gap Landscape

Today, women account for 55% of U.S. medical students and make up nearly 40% of active physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and yet they still earn just 83 cents for every $1 that their male peers earn, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

A 2022 Medscape Physician Compensation Report found that women in Primary Care earn 25% less than men. Among specialists, that pay gap widens to 31%. ​

The difference is significant initially, and it’s substantial over a lifetime. A 2021 study by the medical journal Health Affairs found that women physicians earn $2 million less than male physicians throughout a 40-year career.

How Women Physicians Can Negotiate for the Pay They Deserve

While many aspects of pay inequity are out of women’s control, there is one area where women physicians can advocate for themselves to achieve appropriate compensation and a better work-life balance — the negotiating table.

“Women will ask me if it’s OK to negotiate, or they’ll apologize as they ask about it,” Molly says, “whereas male providers tend not to do that.”

“It’s very rewarding when I can help a woman get what she wants. Our jobs are such a big part of our lives, and it’s important to go into that new role feeling confident and well taken care of. That goes a long way toward finding a long-term fit."

Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D) Physician Recruiter Molly Bell

Molly offers the following tips for knowing what you’re worth and asking for it:

1. Know Your Market: Physician compensation varies by location, specialty and experience level. Researching physician salary reports in the area you’re applying in can help you determine a fair and attractive compensation offer. It also helps to talk to peers and colleagues who can share real-world advice.

2. Tailor Your Approach: What is the hospital or practice you’re applying at looking for? What would propel them forward? Promote skills you possess that will specifically address these needs.

“Focus on what you can offer that’s unique to you,” Molly says. “Highlight those attributes and experiences when you enter negotiations.”

3. Just Go for It: Overcome the reluctance to ask for what you need. You won’t get the contract or salary you want without asking.

“If you’re this far into the process, you’re not going to lose the job offer just because you ask,” Molly says. “The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. Don’t walk away from negotiations wishing you’d asked for something more.”

4. Beyond the Paycheck: Pay is important, but it’s one part of the conversation. With more than half of women physicians experiencing burnout, many are finding they value work-life balance or a more well-rounded and varied career over a top-tier salary. Negotiating greater flextime frees women up to spend time on other pursuits, like hobbies, research, teaching or publishing.

“Focus on what you can offer that’s unique to you. Highlight those attributes and experiences when you enter negotiations.”

5. Think Outside the Box: Your base salary isn’t the only item on the negotiating table. You can consider the following additional options or benefits as well:

  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Built-in raise schedules
  • Additional paid time off
  • Telehealth opportunities

“If it’s a fair request, I always say, ‘Let’s bring it to the group,’” Molly says. “Maybe it’s a higher starting bonus or maybe you want travel reimbursement, or a different FTE status. Whatever it is, there’s a lot of power in simply being clear about what you’re looking for and expressing that with confidence. I help the providers I work with do this, and I advocate on their behalf.”

For example, she recently worked with a newly graduated Hospice physician who needed a flexible work schedule to balance work and family. Although the doctor was hesitant, Molly coached her on making the request, and the physician was hired as a full-time employee with slightly fewer hours.

“It’s very rewarding when I can help a woman get what she wants,” Molly says. “Our jobs are such a big part of our lives, and it’s important to go into that new role feeling confident and well taken care of. That goes a long way toward finding a long-term fit, which is always my goal.”

With hundreds of full- and part-time practice opportunities nationwide — and across a diverse range of healthcare partners — we can help you find the right fit the first time. Reach out today to get started.

This is part 1 in a series about pay equity for women physicians. Stay tuned for the next installment: What’s Behind the Physician Gender Pay Gap?

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