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Gender Gap in FPs' Starting Pay May Signal Differing Priorities
Both Men, Women Can Benefit From Honing Negotiation Skills
By Barbara Bein
Gender Pay Gap Spans Specialties
Among family physicians, the mean starting salary for men in 2008 was almost $147,900, whereas the mean for women was about $139,500. That's a difference of more than $8,000.
The study's authors said the widening gap cannot be explained by solely by specialty choice, practice setting, hours worked or other characteristics. Neither do they accept the theory that women have become worse negotiators. Instead, they suggest that women are paying attention to family considerations, as well as to salary and advancement potential, in their negotiations.
Academy Tools, Resources Can Aid Job Searches
- AAFP CareerLink allows job seekers to create an online resume, view positions offered and create customized job alerts.
- The AFP/FPM Career Center is an extension of the recruitment ads found in the pages of American Family Physician and Family Practice Management. Job seekers can search and apply for jobs, upload their resumes in document and video format, save their job searches and receive personalized job alerts.
- Income data for FPs by location, type of practice and other variables is available online. In addition, the "2009 Review of Physician and CRNA Recruiting Incentives" (15-page PDF; About PDFs) published by Merritt Hawkins & Associates offers insight on what other specialties are earning.
- Information and tips on contract negotiations and physician work-life balance also can be found online.
"Thus, instead of being penalized because of their gender, female physicians may be seeking out employment arrangements that compensate them in other -- nonfinancial -- ways, and more employers may be beginning to offer such arrangements."
Flexibility Comes at a Price
"The reality is that if you want flexibility, you will get a lower income," said Pugno. "More inpatient care, obstetrics and night call do limit your flexibility, but they also pay better."
According to Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, M.D., associate director of the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program in Durham, N.C., and chair of the AAFP Commission on Membership and Member Services, both male and female residents in her program seem to be seeking more flexibility and family time. However, she added that she has noticed gender differences in approaches to compensation, depending on a new physician's personal financial circumstances and his or her experience in business.
Know Thyself, Says Physician Career Expert
"One of the most passive negotiators I advised was a male physician, and one of the most aggressive was a female," he told AAFP News Now.
According to Valancy, both genders increasingly are concerned about lifestyle issues. He said he recommends that both men and women identify their top career issues, including what they prefer as well as what they want to avoid.
Other tips Valancy offered FPs:
- assess how well each potential job satisfies your key career issues,
- don't be shy about asking for what you want,
- shop around and
- walk away from a bad deal.
"My own residents tell me that women are less likely to fight for a salary, that (women) will tend to take what is offered -- unless they have been trained in business before," she told AAFP News Now.
Know Your Worth -- and Your Priorities
Waleh said her first choice in the job search will be a family medicine clinic, but she also wants to work in health policy. She's aware that as part of some compensation packages, companies will pay thousands of dollars a year toward a physician's medical school debt, but the salary may be lower.
Established physicians have told Waleh that she has to know what she's worth and she has to be both assertive and knowledgeable in her negotiations. They also have told her about ways to increase her earnings, such as through supervising midlevel providers or offering special services in the community.
Still, Waleh said she believes there are basic differences in the way men and women approach their first jobs. "If a woman has children and wants to go to soccer games, she might negotiate for that afternoon off, even if it requires a pay cut," she said. It's all about priorities, and they are often different for the two genders, she added.
"Men want to work and provide for their families," Waleh said. "Women want to be with their families and will make changes to accommodate that."
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From the AAFP
Family Practice Management's "Noteworthy" blog: "FP job market stays strong"
(Aug. 5, 2010)
FPM Toolbox: "Identifying Your Key Job Issues" (1-page PDF; About PDFs)
Policy on Family Physician Workforce Reform