• Male physicians in the US earn over $2 million more than their female counterparts over a 40-year career, according to a gender pay gap study.
  • In the UK, female GPs earn 15% less less than men.
  • Brazil and Germany showed gender gaps in healthcare professionals’ pay.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 showed it will take 136 years to close the gender gap, an increase compared with 2020.
  • Women need more representation in the jobs of tomorrow, the Forum says.

In a world where several countries have had equal pay laws in place for decades, you might think the gender pay gap would be non-existent by now.

Think again. Male physicians in the US earn over $2 million more than their female counterparts over a 40-year career, according to a gender pay gap study. The 25% pay chasm, revealed in the Health Affairs report, accounts for specialty, hours, location and years of experience.

Researchers from the RAND Corporation, the physician network Doximity, and US medical schools analyzed data from Doximity for more than 80,000 full-time physicians from 2014 through 2019.

“These are some of the most highly trained individuals in the entire world, and we’re still observing an enormous pay gap between them and their male colleagues,” Dr. Christopher Whaley, the lead author on the study and a health economist at the RAND Corporation, told CNBC Make It. “That should be especially concerning for patients and for the healthcare system as a whole.”

The widening gender pay gap in the health sector is not just in the US.

Women doctors are earning less than their male counterparts for doing the same job
Women doctors are earning less than their male counterparts for doing the same job
Image: Health Affairs

Gender pay gap is a worldwide issue

Similar issues prevail in the UK. Last year the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) released Mend the Gap: The Independent Review into the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine and found that female hospital doctors in England earn 18.9% less than men. Female GPs earn 15.3% less and clinical academics 11.9% less than men. The comparison is based on full-time equivalent pay.

According to the review, the pay gap is due to an under-representation of women in the highest-paid positions, however, it notes that even after the adjustment for age, seniority and other factors, the gender pay gap remains.

Medscape’s UK Doctor’s Salary and Satisfaction Report 2021 revealed that the gender pay gap between male and female doctors was £35,000 last year, a figure that has increased from £32,000 in 2018. Between male and female specialists, the gap was 41%, which means male specialists are earning £34,000 more annually.

The gender pay gap is widening
The gender pay gap is widening
Image: Medscape

In Brazil, female primary care physicians earn $38,000 annually while men make $49,000, according to an international survey conducted by Medscape in 2020. In Germany, women earn $157,000 and men $189,000.

Additional pressures at home

Many gender pay gap studies cite similar reasons underpinning the difference including hiring discrimination, gender bias and lack of salary transparency. There’s also evidence suggesting that the ongoing pandemic has compounded the issue.

Nearly half of female healthcare workers say they have experienced burnout compared to 42% of men, a study in The Lancet shows.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle inequity.

The Forum's work on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Social Justice is driven by the New Economy and Society Platform, which is focused on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, revival and transformation, work, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

Gender differences and mental health among physician parents during the COVID-19 pandemic are also apparent in a recent study from the Jama Network.

Mothers are more likely than fathers to be responsible for childcare or schooling and household tasks, according to the findings. Physicians who are mothers are also more likely to work primarily from home, reduce their working hours, to experience more work and family conflict and depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Closing the gender pay gap

Despite the wide pay gap in the health sector, more than 95% of the gender gap in terms of representation has been closed, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021.

Even so, across all sectors, it will take nearly 136 years to close the gender pay gap the report found - an increase from around 100 years in 2020. The economic gender gap is expected to take 267.6 years to close.

“The pandemic has fundamentally impacted gender equality in both the workplace and the home, rolling back years of progress. If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow,” says Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum.

“Now, more than ever, it is crucial to focus leadership attention, commit to firm targets and mobilize resources. This is the moment to embed gender parity by design into the recovery.”

Working towards parity

The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report is part of the Centre for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society. Included are the Forum's Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators, which focus on increasing the number of women in the workforce to close the gender gap and support their advancement into leadership roles.