By Christopher Cheney
A significant gender pay gap in physician compensation is persisting in Maryland, a new survey report has found.
Earlier research has shown a pervasive gender pay gap in U.S. physician compensation. A study published in December showed that through a simulated 40-year career, male physicians earn an average adjusted gross income that is about $2 million higher than female physicians.
The new survey report was produced for MedChi—The Maryland State Medical Society—by Merritt Hawkins. The physician search and consulting firm is a company of AMN Healthcare. The survey features 2020 data collected from more than 500 Maryland physicians.
The new survey report includes four key data points on the gender pay gap.
- In 2020, female Maryland physicians earned 50% less on average than male physicians. The average annual income for male physicians was $320,000 compared to $213,000 for female physicians.
- In 2020, female Maryland primary care physicians earned 41.2% less in average pre-tax annual income than male primary care physicians. The average pre-tax annual income for male physicians was $262,542 compared to $172,542 for female physicians.
- In 2020, female Maryland physicians in surgical, diagnostic, and other specialties earned 33.5% less in average annual income than male physicians. The average annual income for male specialist physicians was $350,625 compared to $250,115 for female specialist physicians.
- The gender-based pay gap changed little compared to MedChi’s survey of 2016 Maryland physician compensation. In 2016, female Maryland physicians earned 49.6% less than male physicians.
The new gender-based pay gap data is discouraging, MedChi CEO Gene Ransom, JD, said in a prepared statement. “The fact that significant gender-based income disparities persist among Maryland physicians is both disappointing and perplexing. We expected to see at least some closure of this gap, but it remains as wide as ever.”
The factors driving the gender-based pay gap in Maryland are unclear, James Taylor, MBA, MA, group president and CEO of AMN Healthcare’s Leadership Solutions division, said in a prepared statement. “We see little difference in the employment contracts of male and female physicians. Nevertheless, the data show that female Maryland physicians earn less than males, even when specialty, hours worked, practice status, and age are factored into the equation.”
The Merritt Hawkins 2019 Survey of Women in Medicine queried female physicians about what they thought were the causes of the gender-based pay gap in medicine. Unconscious employer discrimination was identified as the primary cause, followed by less aggressive or adept negotiating skills among female physicians compared to male physicians.
Other survey results
The new survey report features several other primary findings:
- The data indicates the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on physician compensation. Compared to 2016 average income for all Maryland physicians, 2020 average income was down 7.7%.
- In 2020, Maryland physician average pre-tax annual income varied by race and ethnicity. Asian American physicians reported income of $325,000, white physicians reported income of $268,000, and African American physicians reported income of $225,000.
- In 2020, employed Maryland physicians earned 26% less than physicians in independent private practice. Employed physicians earned an average pre-tax annual income of $262,000 compared to $299,000 for physicians in independent private practice.
- In 2020, Maryland physicians reported that telemedicine accounted for 15% of their pre-tax income.
- Maryland physicians expected telemedicine’s share of their income to fall to 11% in 2021.
- Maryland physicians expect only a modest percentage of their income this year will come from value-based payments. They projected that 9% of their pre-tax income will be linked to quality measures such as patient satisfaction scores and adherence to treatment protocols.
- In a surprising finding, 50.3% of Maryland physicians reported that they were not professionally impacted by the pandemic. But there were disruptions because of the virus: about 5% of physicians closed their practices, 4.3% joined another practice, 3.7% were furloughed, 3% found work in another field, 1.2% were laid off, and 1.2% retired.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.