Thursday, June 14, 2012

She Said She Said

Fred Whittlesey
Compensation Venture Group, Inc.


"She said, you don't understand what I said

I said no, no, no, you're wrong"


She Said She Said

The Beatles (John Lennon)


A new research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that female physicians are paid less than male physicians by about $12,000 per year, enough of a difference over a 30-year career that one of the study's (female) authors claims "here in Michigan...buys a house" and "Anywhere...sends a kid to college" because "Even Women Doctors Can't Escape the Pay Gap."

When I read this, $12,000 didn't seem like a significant difference given what I know about physician pay levels.  I also know that it's quite difficult to measure the earnings of physicians, for many reasons, and that if you just ask what a doc's "salary" is you probably aren't getting his or her real income number.


The research concluded that the $12,000 - by my calculations equal to about 6.3% of the weighted-average salary of the 800 doctors responding to the survey - is a genuine gender pay gap after twenty (yes, 20) variables are factored into the analysis. It is "statistically significant" which as we all know may or may not be significant. Knowing that it is possible to make statistics tell you just about anything you would like to hear, I looked at the actual research, which was based on a self-report survey of doctors.


In fact, the average male doctor pay level in the survey is 19.5% higher than the average female doctor pay level, and the data confirm that male doctors choose (or are chosen for) higher-paying specialties (like surgery) rather than lower-paying ones (women, children), work in higher-paying settings, work more hours per week (8.8% more hours/week on average), and have conducted and published more research.  I may be missing something but that sounds more like pay-for-skills-and-performance to me than a gender pay gap.


Even after accounting for these other variables, the researchers conclude that the 6.3% pay difference is indeed a gender-driven pay difference attributable to the lack of a Y chromosome.   Or maybe it's because those more highly-paid doctors are researching medical issues, saving lives, and improving patients' health rather than crunching self-reported salary data.  That probably sounds like my Y chromosome talking.


I'm not saying that there is no gender discrimination in the workplace, including healthcare settings, or that there is no gender-based pay discrimination anywhere.  I'm saying that compensation professionals need to be aware of and knowledgeable about these research studies and the resulting pop media headlines. We know how research and media can lead to legislation and regulation, with unintended consequences.


Maybe I should call the neurosurgeon (one of the highest-paying specialties) who performed my daughter's brain surgery last week at Seattle Children's Hospital and find out if she is underpaid.  I think she is the best of the dozen or so neurosurgeons performing the dozen or so brain surgeries over the past 7 years, and I think she should be the highest-paid of the bunch despite her apparent lack of the Y chromosome possessed by all of the other neurosurgeons there.  I wonder what she would say about this research.

5 comments:

Zharif Zahri said...

Greetings from HR Republic

Hi Mr. Whittlesey,

We are interested in publishing this particular article in our emagazine called Guild of HR eMAG

Kindly contact me at zharif.zahri@hr-republic.org

Thanks!

Best Regard,
Zharif Zahri

Zharif Zahri said...

Thanks for your reply sir.

By the way, my email could not reach you

Is there any other mail that i can contact you? Need to pass you some forms on the publication of your article

Thank you

Zharif Zahri said...

Hi,

The message sent via the comment box reached you but earlier i was trying to send via my email with attachment but it was undelivered

No worries, i'll try to re-send it but if it still undelivered, i would have to get your other email address to send it

Thanks

Zharif Zahri said...

Hi Fred,

Sorry but my email still cannot get to yours

Can you please advise me on your other email address so that i can send email with attachment

Thanks!

Zharif Zahri said...

Hi Mr. Whittlesey,

Kindly need a picture of you and a profile abou you range 100 words to be insert along with your article to be published in the eMag

Hope you can provide me with it soon

Thanks!

Regards,
Zharif Zahri