Contract Attorneys Can Help Close the Physician Pay Gap

Cortney Ikpe

Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital recently conducted a comprehensive study to take a closer look at the pay gap between female and male physicians. What they found might not be surprising, but it is still frustrating: On average, female physicians earn $20,000 less than their male counterparts.

The study reviewed the most obvious factors that contribute to this discrepancy, such as age or specialty, but also controlled for production numbers and involvement in research publications.

Analysis done by Merritt Hawkins provided several statistics that further illuminated just how prevalent this gap can be:

  • Male and female gastroenterologists have the biggest pay gap on average, at $91,000 ($394,000 compared to $303,000)
  • The difference between male and female family medicine physicians’ earnings is $37,000 ($220,000 and $183,000)
  • The smallest recorded wage gap was $27,000, between male and female endocrinologists

The numbers from the Merritt Hawkins study obviously describe an even larger average earnings gap, as the lowest pay discrepancy within one specialty is still well above the average from the Harvard study.

It would seem that this information has essentially become common knowledge. So what is anybody doing to fix it?

Unfortunately, there is no simple one-size fits all solution to this issue. However, female physicians can individually start moving the needle towards equal pay through individual contract negotiations and having legal advocates.

Contract negotiations at the beginning of your career can have a huge impact on the initial offer and eventual trajectory of your salary. After such a long and grueling period of training, you might feel eager to start practicing and finally start earning. Do not let this affect how you approach contract negotiations.

If you find your ideal practice opportunity, you may wonder if wanting to review and change some of the terms of your contract will come off as rude or skeptical. If you approach negotiations professionally, it will not.

In fact, the employer should welcome the discussion of your terms. If you receive backlash from an employer for wanting to negotiate or review your contract, this should be a red flag for not only the state of your contract, but for how your practice will be managed as well.

With so many regulations in healthcare, your contract will be extensive and complex. You may encounter unfamiliar contractual items such as non-compete clauses, non-solicitation clauses, and revenue sharing terms among others.

One of the most beneficial things you can do is to hire a physician contract attorney. Attorneys who have several years of experience reviewing and negotiating physicians’ contracts will know the ins and outs of your contract and can recognize a fair offer.

A quality physician contract attorney will be armed with industry standard data on income, such as national and regional compensation survey data. This will help you see what earnings you can expect based on your specialty, geography and other factors.

They will also be vigilant for any missing needs in your contract. For example, if you are planning to have a child, you will need to address maternity leave and negotiate for a plan that fits your needs. An experienced physician contract attorney will know how to navigate this often thorny issue and others like it. Plus, they should be flexible in their scheduling and correspondence as to better fit your busy training or practice schedule.

While more women than ever are becoming physicians, earnings are not reflecting the contributions they are making when compared to male physicians. This is an interesting dynamic, especially when some studies report that female physicians have more success when treating patients.

Ensuring that you get paid what you are worth and what is equivalent to any other physician in your same situation, whether male or female, is vital.

It is time that your pay reflects your value in your profession. Reach out to us so we can set you up with one of the nation’s leading physician contract attorneys, maximize the value of your contract and make sure you are getting a fair offer.