Advice for Female Physicians to Negotiate Higher Salaries

Sandra Levy


July 03, 2018

In This Article

Don't Accept the Initial Offer Without Negotiating

Many women accept an offer for their first position without negotiating. Often, they are so impressed with the amount because it is significantly greater than what they were earning as residents.

"You think, this is great. It's not, if you're making $10-, $20-, $30,000 a year less than the next guy," Rohr-Kirchgraber said. "If the salary for your first job is $100,000 versus $117,000, your 3% raise on $100,000 is much less than it is on $117,000. Compounded over time it could be upwards of $1 million that you lose by retirement."

When talking about a salary with a job you're considering, you should have in mind a target salary that is at the top range for that job. "There's a direct correlation between the target and what you get. Men tend to ask on average for 35% more than women do. If you aim higher, there's a good chance of getting more," Laschever says. That probably entails doing research in advance as to what the range should be.

Most experts say you should not accept verbal "promises," such as if an employer says they will give you a raise in 6 months to a year instead of meeting your asking salary requirement. What often happens is that you may not get the raise when the time comes. Anything that's not in writing may as well not exist.

"Remember that if you take a lower salary than you deserve when you start, you will not make up the difference during the course of your career, as future salaries are based on your initial salary. Be careful of promises to make up the difference in future years. This usually doesn't happen," Templeton says.

Ask for a Sign-on Bonus and Extras That Enhance Your Career

If you aren't offered a sign-on bonus, ask for one, and if you do receive a bonus offer, ask for double the amount, Rohr-Kirchgraber advises.

Rohr-Kirchgraber recalled that two male and two female internal medicine residents hired at the same facility were informed that the employer doesn't negotiate salaries. Yet two of the males were earning $10,000 more than the women because they asked for and received a sign-on bonus.

"The women heard, "we don't negotiate about salary" and they didn't negotiate. The chief medical officer ended up offering the bonus to the women, but that doesn't happen very often," Rohr-Kirchgraber said.

Negotiating for support staff and equipment can help female physicians be more successful and achieve a salary that is on par with that of male physicians.

Rohr-Kirchgraber cited a situation in which a male and female, both PhDs at Indiana University, started at the same position for the same salary. "The male negotiated for more support and 5 years later he was earning more than she was because he had lab assistants and a larger lab space," she said.

"Understand that everything is negotiable — it is more than just salary. It may be days off, clinic or lab space, office or lab assistance, or support for attending professional meetings," Templeton says.

Fees for medical boards, licensing exams, and continuing medical education, as well as time off to study and sit for boards, are also among extras that women should negotiate for.


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