Radiologists can help close gender pay gap

By Amerigo Allegretto, staff writer

January 7, 2022 -- Radiology has one of the largest gender pay gaps in medicine, but proactive strategies can help close that gap and promote diversity and equality among professionals, according to an article published January 5 in Clinical Imaging.

A team led by Renu Pandit from the University of Alabama at Birmingham outlined strategies that eliminate bias and provide transparent policies, showing that radiology can value diversity, inclusion, families, and patient outcomes.

"We believe the gender pay gap in radiology can be closed in our generation," Pandit and colleagues wrote. "The world relies on the work that women do -- it is time that the world also values it."

Although the Equal Pay Act was passed in the U.S. in 1963, economic research has shown that women continue to earn less than their male colleagues, with women having to work nearly three months longer than men to achieve equal pay for equal work. The gap is even greater for mothers and women of color, research suggests.

Medical professions are not immune to this issue. While a 2019 physician compensation report showed a pay gap reduction for the first time, women are still only paid one dollar for every $1.25 a man makes. A 2018 report, meanwhile, said that women in radiology earned 21% less than men did, while a salary study from 2015 found a 20% differential.

"With increasing recruitment of women into radiology, allowing the pay gap to persist has the potential to decrease overall pay within the specialty," Pandit et al wrote.

The team wanted to identify factors and strategies addressing the pay gap, as well as give historical perspective on the issue when it comes to radiology.

Pandit et al pointed to several contributing factors as drivers of the pay gap. These include underrepresentation of women matching into radiology, discrimination and implicit bias, parental leave and overwork, "minority taxes" that place additional responsibilities on people who represent a minority identity characterization, and the lack of senior and leadership representation.

The team listed five strategies to closing the gender pay gap. They include the following:

  1. Acknowledge the gender pay gap.
  2. Eliminate bias and minority taxes through progressive compensation and parental leave models.
  3. Devalue overwork to not punish radiologists who take parental leave or do part-time work.
  4. Develop longitudinal mentorship and sponsorship, including bringing awareness to organizations such as the American Association for Women in Radiology, as well as tools such as the Association of Administrators in Academic Radiology physician survey to establish gender-neutral base salaries.
  5. Demand transparent institutional policies to treat workers uniformly.

Pandit and colleagues said these strategies can impact every woman who makes less money than co-workers despite achieving the same education level, as well as mothers who feel shamed for taking work off. They also said patient care quality would increase due to decreases in physician burnout.

"We can simultaneously close the gender pay gap and decrease workforce burnout by enacting policies that encourage a healthy work-life balance within radiology for women and men," Pandit and colleagues wrote.

Copyright © 2022

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