American College of Physicians Outlines Steps to Achieve Gender Equity

Darilyn Moyer, MD

Despite some gains, gender inequity still exists in the physician workforce, a new position paper by the American College of Physicians (ACP) finds, and is urging all organizations to work toward the elimination of compensation inequity and help eliminate obstacles to female advancement.

The position paper, Achieving Gender Equity in Physician Compensation and Career Advancement, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, calls for eliminating gender compensation inequity and addressing other challenges women in medicine face. It states that women comprise more than one third of the active physician workforce and an estimated 46 percent of all physicians-in-training. More than half of all medical students in the United States, and 37 percent of ACP members are female. Women physicians are paid less and may face other challenges at the workplace including lack of mentors and implicit gender bias, the paper says.

“Promoting gender equity is a long-standing goal of the College, and now we are trying to get practical and real [about] the adoption of equitable compensation policies, leadership development and training, comprehensive parental and family leave policies and addressing bias,” said Susan Thompson Hingle, MD, MACP, immediate past chair of the Board of Regents of ACP and a professor of internal medicine at Southern Illinois University Medicine in Springfield, IL, during a press conference. 

“There is not any debate that there is a gender gap in physicians’ compensation — with as much as a 16 percent pay gap in primary care and a wider [gap] for specialists,” said Dallas internist Sue Bornstein, MD, FACP, ACP Regent, during the press conference. “These gaps persist even after we adjust for factors such as specialty, place of employment, years out of residency and hours worked, and we really need to better understand why this occurs.” To answer this question, the College supports transparency and routine assessment of the equity of physician compensation arrangements by all organizations that employ physicians.

In addition to compensation equity, the paper makes several other recommendations aimed at achieving equity. ACP is also behind universal access to family and medical leave policies that provide a minimum period of six weeks leave for physicians, residents and medical students, regardless of gender. The paper urges all organizations that employ physicians to take steps to increase the number of women in leadership positions. It also urges that those organizations implement regular implicit bias training. Finally, ACP calls for establishing programs in leadership development, negotiation, and career development for all physicians and physicians in training.
While there has been an uptick in women entering the medical field, the proportion of female leadership positions has remained low. 

Female physicians comprise 38 percent of full-time medical school faculty but only 21 percent of full professors, 15 percent of department chairs, and 16 percent of deans, according to the paper. “We need a broad deep examination of where the organization is and where it is going,” said Dr. Hingle. Actionable ways to increase the number of female leaders includes requiring that there be female physicians as job candidates and members of search committees and encouraging mentorship and sponsorship and providing training for faculty on how to be effective mentors and sponsors, the paper states.

Implicit bias still exists in medicine, and can have devastating effects on female physicians’ self-esteem and career trajectory, Dr. Hingle said, but implementing regular training by all organizations that employ physicians can help to reduce such bias.

For access to the paper. visit here

This article originally appeared here

ACP also recently released these important papers:

The American College of Physicians Is Working Hard to Achieve Gender Equity, and Everyone Will Benefit

Addressing Social Determinants to Improve Patient Care and Promote Health Equity: An American College of Physicians Position Paper