I just read Salma Hayek’s moving piece on the New York Times. Since the Harvey Weinstein debacle, we have heard more and more about how women are abused and taken advantage of in Hollywood, where candidates are chosen based on a sort of eye test, excluding women because they simply “weren’t talented enough”, when exclusions could be due to anything. For example, a woman that does not want to do a sex scene in Hollywood may not be chosen by a director. That director can then simply say that the lady did not have the acting capabilities, and that is why she wasn’t chosen, regardless of what the real reason may be.
My perception had always been that this is a problem that mainly affects fields like acting or writing, and other subjective, creative fields. I wanted to write about another career field that needs to be changed.
I am pursuing a career in medicine. I see many women much smarter than I am at school with me. My thoughts have always been that those who are smarter than me and work harder than me, regardless of whether they are men or women, will get into better programs than me. It makes sense, and it’s how the world should work.
I talked to some friends about this not long ago. There are stats that show that women earn less than men in the field of medicine. That is not something that can be debated. But friends and I discussed why this might be. For example, women make up the majority of some of the lower paying fields in medicine, like family medicine or pediatrics, while men make up the majority of higher paying fields like surgery or radiology. On top of this, women work fewer hours than men and are more likely to work part-time than men.
From all of this, I thought that the wage gap between male and female physicians could be explained by differences in hours worked and specialty, and that male and female doctors must be paid around the same when these are accounted for.
A lot of these sites don’t make it clear whether hours worked or specialty are accounted for, but after finding sources that make the differences clear, the results are clearly awful. Results from a recent study show that, when only using data from men and women who both work at least 40 hours a week, there is a 27% difference in wages. Some fields had even more drastic differences. A female neurosurgeon may earn $92,918 less than a male counterpart. Regardless of how you frame it, women are at an earning disadvantage in the medical field. This is not something that excuses can be made for. Facts are facts, and for some reason, women continue to earn less than men in a field entirely based on knowledge.
Why is this? The Time article, also linked above, offers a few explanations. Do women negotiate less aggressively than men? Are they less likely to use outside offers to seek a raise for employers?
Or maybe there is a discrimination problem.
Women earn substantially less than men in nearly every field. It’s a dilemma that will not go away without action and awareness. I hope to spread that awareness in my field and encourage others to talk about the fields that they are a part of. It’s the first step towards a change.