Gender disparity in salary and promotion in medicine: still a long way to go

Tedros WHO Director General

Dr Tedros is the Director General of the World Health Organisation (UN, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Marina Kushnirenko, a nineteen year old second year medical student of Saint-Petersburg State Pediatric Medical University. Ms Kushnirenko is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

According to the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, men are in a better position than women when it comes to practical opportunities to receive a decent salary. This was the conclusion that 90% of respondents in the opinion poll came to. According to the statistics of 2006, the average monthly salary of women is only slightly more than 65% of the average monthly salary of men. Even in low-wage budget sectors, men’s wages are higher than women’s as they occupy the majority of managerial positions. In the health care system, men prevail among chief physicians, department heads, and leading specialists.

A 2016 study “Sex Differences in Physician Salary in US Public Medical Schools” that looked at academic physician salaries showed that even after accounting for physician age, experience, faculty rank, specialty, scientific authorship, National Institutes of Health funding, clinical trial participation, and Medicare reimbursements, female physicians still earn less than males in every field with the exception of radiology. Therefore it is evident that this problem is relevant not only for Russia but for the whole world.

Historically, uniform tariffs were officially established regardless of sex, but in fact, preference was paid to labor remuneration in industries that focused on the use of male labor: in heavy industry, in construction and installation works, etc. The sectors with predominantly female employment turned out to be low-paid.  However gender differences in the level of income exist not only in industries with a “male” profile of work but even where women are predominantly employed.  Medicine is one of such spheres: women are 85,6% of the employees.

A 2013 series of studies on salary negotiation and backlash concluded: assertive, self-advocating female negotiators suffer backlash consistent with negative masculine characterizations. They are seen as dominant and arrogant, and people do not want to interact on a peer level with them. Non-assertive, other-advocating female negotiators suffer a different backlash consistent with negative feminine characterizations. They are seen as weak and gullible, and people do not want to be led by them.

The main problem here is gender inequality and sexism in common. It is related to labor legislation, discriminatory practices and society stereotypes. It is a consequence of traditional perception of the position and role of woman and society and the belief that women are less responsible ,have a lack of leadership, too sensitive etc

The choice to prioritize childcare is one that every person, male or female, should be able to make. However, our current culture leads to women doing this much more often than men. And because of that sometimes women choose less demanding specialties or working fewer hours.

Despite this we do have strong women role models. Mae Jemison – an American physician and NASA astronaut, Pat Goldman-Rakic- a neuroscientist who has contributed significantly to the study of the brain, and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and was the first scientist to fully chart the frontal lobe of the brain.

Expectations for women leaders are both high and low, while male leaders do well with a variety of personality types and styles. A rise in the number of strong women in power would help foster more positive public perceptions. So I think that for our cultural expectation of women to change, we have to start by putting women in leadership positions.

About the author

Marina is a nineteen year old second year medical student of Saint-Petersburg State Pediatric Medical University. Besides studying she is also a local officer of International Federation of Medical Students Association’s sector called Stranding Committee on Public health and a very active volunteer for many programs and events. Marina is always concerned about human rights issues including gender inequality in many aspects of life as well as ecological problems. Moreover, she is an operator for a local university “MED TV” media project and successfully combines activism and media space to spread her ideas. She is also interested in anatomy, neurosciences, literature and art.

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