Mind the Gender Wage Gap

CHAPTER ENGAGEMENT | "Just because you love something, doesn't mean you have to do it for free," said Carolyn Carr-Ragland, a senior management consultant and executive coach by profession. A soft rumble of laughter was heard across the audience of women as the ACC Women in Cardiology DC Chapter kicked off its first event this April.

The meeting focused on the national gender wage gap in medicine and cardiology. "Well, okay. Actually, the wage gap is shrinking," Carr-Ragland went on to say. "From 27.7 percent to 25 percent." More laughs came from the crowd. She made an extremely well-received point right from the beginning. Despite knowing that there have traditionally been gender wage gaps in every field, especially medicine and specifically cardiology, not enough women in these fields have the tools to approach the issue throughout their careers. The gap remains.

We were introduced to the fact that the wage gap is a well-established phenomenon, and then made mindful of the current policies and practices being enforced by the American Medical Association House of Delegates to establish more awareness and empower all genders to negotiate. However, with leverage to negotiate comes the need for understanding and having access to transparency, which is not always feasible (but hopefully will be one day). "Ask your colleagues, friends and mentors," Carr-Ragland advised. "Do your research." Nailing the salary negotiation process involves learning the basic steps, the right vocabulary and understanding what hiring managers may be thinking. Know what you will accept before starting the negation, consult recent salary guides (such as the Doximity 2019 Physician Compensation Report) and do not be afraid to reference them. "There will always be a range," she shared, "And know that most companies want to pay you somewhere in the middle of that salary range."

As we all sat in ACC's Heart House – a group ranging from medical students to cardiology fellows, physician assistants and experienced attendings – every woman took home an important message regarding this ongoing gender pay gap. We must overcome the often-innate feeling that asking for something is being selfish or negotiating is impolite. "Don't make this about you; it's not just about you. There's a whole movement going on here, of which you all play a part."

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This article was authored by Tanuka Datta, MD, cardiologist at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC.