Citing the present-day “watershed moment” for women in the workplace, a viewpoint published in JAMA Cardiology explores the wage gap between men and women in cardiology.

Per a study published in 2016, female cardiologists earn an average of 7.3% less than their male peers. This figure alone, however, fails to illustrate the true magnitude of the wage gap: With subsequent promotions and pay raises, the discrepancy mounts over time. A woman will begin earning an average of $21,900 less in gross income compared with a man during the first year of employment. Accounting for the assumed 2% annual raise, a female cardiologist will earn $2.5 million less during a 35-year career. Extending this model to accommodate all cardiologists in the United States, a collective $11.2 billion in gross earnings are withheld from women. Although this discrepancy can vary based on region and tax bracket, the dollar amount remains substantial.

Women in medicine are also less likely than men to rise in the academic ranks; as such, their salaries reflect this trend. Studies show that women receive less money for research start-up compared with men, and this lack of sponsorship and opportunity can contribute to a lifetime of pay inequity. Simply considering the number of publications and grants received by women as a measure of productivity oversimplifies the issue, as implicit disadvantages inform these measures in the first place.

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Author Rashmee U. Shah, MD, from the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, implored employers to address these inequities by uniformly measuring productivity and allowing for transparent pay negotiation. Research demonstrates that diverse groups have a “higher collective intelligence and better performance rate,” and as such, equitable pay for women is both socially and legally just and a necessary investment.

Reference

Shah RU. The $2.5 million dollar wage gap in cardiology [published online May 30, 2018]. JAMA Cardiol. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2018.0951