Previous explanations for the stark differences between male and female physicians in relation to their responsibilities and job flexibility do not account for the double standards between these two professional groups.

The ‘Invisible woman’ factor is best explained by Julie K. Silver, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School accounting for why there is less allocation for funding, disparities in salaries and academic promotions amongst similarly qualified female doctors.

Salary gap between genders still rampant in the medical profession

According to a new study conducted in the US, despite the fact that half of all medical school graduates worldwide are now women, male doctors are stipulated to earn an average of 8% more than their female counterparts.

“It’s 2016, and yet in a very methodically strong, large study that covers a broad swath of the country, you’re still seeing at the very least a 10% difference in what men and women take home,” said Molly Cooke, a professor of medicine at University of California who has studied salary disparities among physicians.

In the academic sector, the wage gap is so wide that women physicians teaching at medical schools as full time professors make approximately the same as male associate professors.

Apart from the absolute numbers, the recognition for academic and professional achievements is also often lesser simply by default of being a female. This is in spite of the female gender holding positions at all levels of senior management and at the higher strata of organisations.

Other instances of invisible women are on the commercial front whereby dashingly handsome male doctors dominate the healthcare websites and magazines with quotes resonating within and beyond their industry. The key point here is that solely the male counterparts were featured.

Several factors may account for these double standards

With regards to the gaps identified in salaries, one school of thought stereotyped it to the passivity of women who tend to negotiate less aggressively than men. They are also thought to less likely to solicit outside job offers in order to seek a raise from their current employer or encompass the confrontational behaviours in requesting for better funding in academic grants.

Aside from factors such as part time working and maternity leave, other factors contributing to the gap in academic promotions between genders are less time allowance. One major factor which denies them the luxury of taking part in extra activities that might boost their careers, such as networking with peers, attending international conferences, or joining committees lies in their personal commitment as mothers, and wives.

“ Between juggling time for clinics, ward rounds, night calls, raising two teenage kids and family commitments, I hardly have time to even keep abreast on what is up and coming in the fore front of my specialty.” states Dr Lee YM, an ophthalmologist from Kuala Lumpur.

A study conducted on the subject of discrimination showed that people rate scientific papers lower in relevance and quality when the authors are women, as compared to the same research whereby only male names were identified as authors.

If we cannot eliminate these sex differences in compensation, recognition which dictates preferential treatment, we are going to have a much harder time trying to attract really qualified female physicians to go into specialties where we need them most. MIMS

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