Women earned $2 million less than men during 40-year careers as a doctor, a study finds

Female doctor talking to man
Female doctors earned $US2 ($AU3) million less than male doctors over a 40-year career span, a study found. FatCamera/Getty Images
  • Male doctors earned $US2 ($AU3) million more than female doctors over a simulated 40-year period, a study found.
  • The largest pay gap was $US2 ($AU3).5 million between male and female surgical specialists, per the study.
  • The lead author told The NYT the pay gap is probably bigger now compared to the study’s 2014-2019 data.

Female doctors earned on average $US2 ($AU3) million less than male doctors over a 40-year career span, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs on Monday.

The study, which used earnings data from more than 80,000 full-time US physicians, estimated that male doctors earned an average of more than $US8.3 ($AU12) million over a simulated 40-year career span, compared with female doctors, who earned an average of $US6.3 ($AU9) million over the period — that’s almost 25% less.

Surgical specialists had the biggest pay gap with a $US2 ($AU3).5 million difference between males and females, the study found. This was followed by nonsurgical specialists with a $US1.6 ($AU2) million difference, and then primary care physicians with $US900,000 ($AU1,277,122) difference, per the study.

The study found there was a gap in pay between male and female doctors throughout the period and that the difference in annual income increased at its most rapid rate in the initial years of medical practice.

“We were able to see that essentially from Year 1 to Year 40 there is a pretty sizable gap,” Dr. Christopher Whaley, the lead author of the study, told The New York Times

Dr. Whaley told The Times that the data was collected between 2014 and 2019 but the pay gap is probably bigger now because of the pandemic as more women had to look after children and stay at home.

“This is probably going to accelerate physician burnout,” Dr. Whaley told The Times. “And so that’s just going to further exacerbate these pay issues.”