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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The heartening news for female physicians is that their compensation rose over last year's report — by 8.1% for primary care physicians and by 8.5% for specialists.

In this report, women tell us about their challenges in reaching equitable salaries and bonuses in the medical field. They also provide insights into their practice habits, net worth, personal finance and spending habits, and a variety of other topics.

Data for this year's report were collected as part of a broader physician compensation survey fielded from October 5, 2021, through January 19, 2022. Results for all physicians can be accessed in our Physician Compensation Report 2022.

(Note: Some chart data in this presentation do not add up to 100% due to rounding.)

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The gender pay gap among physicians now stands at 32.3% in favor of men. Much research has been conducted into how much various factors — hours worked, choice of specialty, bias among decision-makers, and others — contribute to that gap.

"Overall, it's something of a head-scratcher to me on why there is such a disparity in the marketplace for a female physician," says Michael Belkin, divisional vice president at physician search firm Merritt Hawkins. "You hate to see it."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

In primary care, which is the leading destination for female physicians, their male counterparts earn 25% more on average, compared with 27% in our 2021 report. It points to a pervasive and longstanding pay disparity.

A survey by Merritt Hawkins found that 3 in 4 women doctors think unconscious bias is the leading reason why men earn more. But Belkin thinks other factors could also influence the PCP compensation gap, such as age and timing.

"Also, female physicians tend to practice differently than their male counterparts. Many are more likely to want a 4-day workweek because of family obligations. And younger physicians generally have a different mentality than 20 or 30 years ago. They don't want to work 24/7 and be on call all the time. They're more open to a team-based care model" that may reduce their working hours.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The average wage gap for specialists is 31% vs 33% in last year's report and is a longstanding issue for female physicians.

Data show that female physicians have gravitated toward primary care specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine, which pay less than procedural specialties such as gastroenterology, Belkin says. The share of women in specialties is increasing, but an impact on average compensation will take some time to appear, he adds.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The physician pay differential gets somewhat larger over a woman's career path until she hits age 55, with retirement closer on the horizon.

"Age 40 to 55 is when you should start advancing in your career," says Jennifer Frank, MD, a family physician in Wisconsin and a Medscape lifestyle blogger. "It's when you have more flexibility to devote time to work." But many female doctors choose not to pursue more lucrative positions during that period, which could close the compensation gap, she says. That's because they start caring for their parents on top of their ongoing childcare responsibilities.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

There have been some shifts from our 2021 report, when female physicians earned the highest incomes working either in independent solo practice or at a hospital. Multispecialty group practices continue to be less lucrative for women than other self-employment avenues (single-specialty group or solo practices).

"It's possible that some multispecialty clinics have a harder time anticipating demand and therefore have some specialists who are less busy than others," Frank says.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

It seems logical that female and male physicians should have incentive bonuses in their pay package at fairly equal rates, given that bonuses are based mostly on objective criteria (although sometimes on qualitative factors like patient satisfaction).

Our 2021 report saw a 6-percentage-point difference in favor of male physicians among both PCPs and specialists.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

While female physicians have the opportunity to earn an incentive bonus at about the same frequency as their male counterparts, that bonus on average is 64% less for a woman PCP and 92% less for a woman specialist.

"It's hard to comprehend why bonus formulas are producing differently, because administrators have become much more conscious about making them standard," Belkin says. "Maybe unconscious bias still comes in. Part of it might be affected by a bonus system that is heavily volume-based — how many CPT codes you bill. The needle from volume- to value-based [bonus formulas] is moving very slowly, and it varies with where you practice in the US and what kind of physician you are."

Choice of specialty may also have an effect. For example, women make up only about 11% of orthopedists, whose incentive payments on average are high; but they comprise 58% of pediatricians, whose average incentive payments are much lower.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Self-employment on average is 22% more financially rewarding to female physicians, about the same advantage as for doctors overall (20% more). While self-employment has waned in the medical marketplace for some time, the potential to maximize compensation has not gone away.

"If you're willing to be an entrepreneur and have a business mindset, if you will work harder and longer hours," then your compensation should be higher in self-employment, Belkin says. "But fewer physicians want that now. Many more want predictable hours, a set schedule, and clearly defined expectations for how many patients they should see in a day."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The 8.2% gap in the average time spent on patients by female and male physicians compares with 10.5% in last year's report (35.2 and 38.9 hours per week, respectively).

"Women are likelier than men to be on a part-time or near-full-time basis, which means fewer hours seeing patients," Frank notes.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Female physicians are somewhat less likely to feel fairly paid than in our 2021 report (54%). Men more often feel properly compensated than their female counterparts, with an 11-percentage-point gap compared with 8% in our last report (62% for male doctors). Higher pay certainly feeds men's greater satisfaction with income.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The personal net worth categories reported by female physicians are about the same as in our 2021 report. Higher percentages of women occupy the lower echelons of net worth, while greater shares of men claim $2 million or more, just as in last year's report.

Physician net worth is driven mostly by physician income, and the disparity is shaped significantly by higher compensation earned in medical specialties dominated by men, Belkin believes. "It gets down to which gender typically practices the [specialty] discipline," he says.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The frequencies with which women carry these different kinds of debts and expenses have held pretty steady from our 2021 report. Female doctors continue to manage mortgage, college or medical school loans, and credit card debt, as well as childcare expenses, more often than their male counterparts do.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Ninety-four percent of female physicians live within or below their means, about the same as in last year's report. What exactly does it mean to live within your means? One expert believes that saving at least 20% of gross pay toward retirement, paying off credit cards each month, meeting student loan payments, contributing to kids' college savings scrupulously, and setting aside rainy-day cash is necessary.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Female doctors dealt with these negative work events about as often as their male counterparts did last year. Except for no pay raise (also 17% in our 2021 report), most of these measures affected women less often than in our last report. What changed?

"The effects of COVID seem to have largely receded, with a bounceback of patients returning to our offices and ready to resume care they may have missed or delayed," Frank says. With patient demand for care rising, "I'd expect it would be rare to require a reduction in hours from staff or physicians."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

The frequencies with which women reported these types of financial hits were comparable to what men experienced. Around the same shares of female physicians experienced no significant financial losses or had financial issues at their medical practice as in our 2021 report (68% and 14%, respectively).

(Survey respondents could choose more than one answer.)

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

About 1 in 3 female physicians take on work outside of their normal jobs, either within or outside the medical field. That's at a rate below their male counterparts', and Belkin thinks it will come down. "Anecdotally, we are seeing fewer physicians — female or male — who are interested in pursuing extra work to generate more income" potentially at the expense of family time, he says.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Sixty-six percent of female physicians work with PAs and/or NPs, up slightly from the 62% in last year's report. Once again, women are likelier than men to work with NPs but get help from PAs less often. The specialty they work in may influence those percentages.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Female doctors identified patient relationships or making the world a better place somewhat more often than their male counterparts did. Male doctors somewhat more frequently chose being good at their job.

"What I hear most often from the male and female physicians I work with, as far as the top reward for what they do, is patient relationships or patients thanking them for what they do," Frank says. "That said, in general I have found that women tend to be more relational and men tend to be more achievement-oriented."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Female physicians' responses to this question closely resemble those in last year's report, although COVID treatment risks are cited somewhat less often (7% in our 2021 report) as the pandemic transitions to endemic.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

If they had it to do over again, most female doctors would go into medicine again. However, the majorities (expressed in different specialties) aren't as robust as in last year's report, when the top affirmative was 91% and at least 80% of doctors in seven specialties said yes.

"Most of the grumbling I hear is not with medicine as a profession but with how medicine currently operates in this country," Frank says. "The actual practice of medicine is a fantastic profession, an opportunity to creatively apply science in the pursuit of helping people. There are not many jobs that equal that combination."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

When it comes to looking back on their specialty choice, female doctors are more emphatically positive than when they look back on the decision to enter medicine. Five specialties match or exceed the top rate of 95% in our 2021 report.

Frank notes that several of the specialties leading this year's pack couple "amazing lifestyles" (ie, straightforward treatments, few if any after-hours demands) with "amazing compensation, which likely leads to increased satisfaction." Conversely, specialties like family medicine and internal medicine "can involve a lot of on-call and odd hours, and the administrative burden can be overwhelming."

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

Typically, as income rises, so does a mortgage because one can afford more house. Female doctors' mortgages cover a broad range and are comparable to those their male counterparts now carry.

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report 2022: Trying to Narrow the Gender Gap

Jon McKenna | October 14, 2022 | Contributor Information

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