Although 47 percent of new anesthesiologists are women, they continue to make less than their male peers, no matter how figures are adjusted.
A 2015 Rand Corporation study highlights wage disparity in the field, and finds the gender pay gap is wider in anesthesiology than other professions. In the U.S., women earn an average of 23 percent less than men for the same work. Female anesthesiologists earn 29 percent less than men in their field, or 13 percent less if the numbers are arranged to reflect only hours worked, not experience or type of employment.
Economists generally agree that outright gender discrimination accounts for about 40 percent of the U.S. gender wage gap. In all but seven of the 600 tracked occupations, women make less than male counterparts.
Female anesthesiologists face the same challenges as all working women, with added hurdles to equal pay for women of color and minorities. Working women in our country are more likely to be responsible for childcare, less likely to negotiate their salaries, and work part time more often.
Assertive women are more likely than assertive men to be perceived as unpleasant, and many other leadership skills are labelled as “unladylike.” Women are more likely to be judged negatively by their peers and employers based on their appearance or family status. These factors are all part of overall income gender disparity.
The professional Association of Anesthesiologists offers a grant to minority teams of mentor/mentees for research projects, but the gender wage gap remains.
It’s necessary to determine how much institutional bias vs. individual choice results in women anesthesiologists working fewer hours in less lucrative positions. In Washington State, for example, graduates in anesthesiology can expect very little competition, with the majority finding work. But, like all medical fields, women can expect to make less than men. This may be because women are less likely to negotiate their starting wage. It may include factors such as age and education.
It’s clear that marital status had a larger role than children in accounting for the gender gap in amount of hours worked. Married female anesthesiologists work less than married men with or without kids, and female anesthesiologists are more than three times as likely to work part time. The notion that women choose part time, lower-paying jobs is again dismissed by these findings; which took into account experience, employer type and hours worked.
Researchers suggest employers analyze why women anesthesiologists, more often than men, work for fixed salaries at a single hospital or facilities. It’s possible these lower-paying positions offer better quality of life with more flexible schedules and the relative protection of unions, but that does not excuse or explain the gender gap in pay.
When bonuses occur, both genders receive them at around 10 percent of their salary. However, men more often earn based on the number and type of services provided, making more money, no matter how one slices the statistics.
If employers and administrators strive to close the gender wage gap, more attention should be given to the number of women entering anesthesiology and how they prefer to work. As always, when more opportunities are provided and institutional bias erodes, more women will step into the experienced, higher-paid positions.