The Healthcare Industry’s Gender Gap by the Numbers

Mar 08, 2017

The overall chasm between men and women's pay in America is well-established. In the health care industry, it takes on some interesting contours, with the wage gap level differing significantly between specific sectors.

Here's a bird's eye view of how the difference in pay—and representation in leadership roles—pans out in health care.

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Doctors

The gender wage gap among physicians is particularly atrocious, according to a 2016 Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The review of more than 10,000 academic physicians across two dozen public medical schools found a nearly $20,000 salary shortfall for women—about $227, 783 for women versus $24,7 661 for men after controlling for important factors like specific medical specialties, age, experience, and which institutions the physicians served.

Furthermore, this data is only based on publicly available information mandated under the Freedom of Information Act—it doesn't even cover private institutions.

Another 2016 report from the health jobs portal Health eCareers provides some more perspective in that space. The only position where women were paid almost the same as women, according to the survey, was in the physical/occupational therapist arena ($66,364 for men versus $66,207 for women). In every other position—pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical imaging specialists, etc.—men received appreciably higher salaries.

Health IT

Things aren't much better for in the health information technology sector, according to a decade-long analysis by the trade group Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

"In 2006, the average female IT worker made 81 percent of the average male IT worker’s pay. By 2015, this compensation gap widened to 78 percent," wrote the organization. "Among different types of organizations, health IT vendors/consultants demonstrated the most progressiveness, paying women 91 percent of what they paid men in 2015." This analysis also accounted for potential mitigative factors such as company type and career tenure.

The most concerning part of the HIMSS report is that it found the wage gap actually widened over recent years.

Hospital and biotech execs

Discrimination extends beyond pay. Opportunity matters, too. So consider this: Women hold 75% of health care jobs. But only a quarter of hospital CEOs are female. Among our own Fortune 500 health care firms, only 21% of executives and board members are women. And a 2016 McKinsey analysis finds that the share of women serving leadership roles falls precipitously the higher up the ladder you go.

There is, however, at least one health industry where there appears to be some equanimity between, if not the number of male and female employees and leaders, men and women's pay in the top executive roles. And that's biotech. (Sidenote: Jim Greenwood, who heads up America's largest biotech trade organization, sent out this tweet in celebration of International Women's Day on Wednesday.)

As my Fortune colleague Valentina Zarya has explained, the median base pay for male and female chief executives in private biotech companies was almost identical (despite an extremely lopsided number of male biotech CEOs).

Of course, there's still plenty of work to do when it comes to sexism in the life sciences. In January, more than 100 biopharma executives signed an open letter urging more gender diversity in the industry after an unfortunate incident at the 2016 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference where scantily-clad women were hired as "entertainment" for a largely male gathering of investors and professionals.

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