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Ontario Medical Review
June 29, 2022
Keri Sweetman

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

What are the reasons for the gender pay gap in medicine?

Understanding why female physicians earn less than their male counterparts

  • Female physicians — whether in family medicine or another specialty — spend more time with each patient, on average, compared to their male colleagues. In a fee-for-service system, that means the female physician does fewer procedures each hour, resulting in lower pay
  • Female doctors are more likely to work in lower-paid specialties such as family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology
  • The OHIP Schedule of Benefits that determines compensation for thousands of medical procedures is outdated and some procedures commonly performed by female doctors are undervalued
  • There is evidence of gender bias in the patient referral system. Some studies have found that male GPs refer more often to male specialists, while female GPs refer equally to both genders. The OMA’s Economics, Research and Analytics group is doing further study on this issue. One solution could be a gender-neutral central referral system
  • There are fewer women in leadership positions and on hiring boards in medical organizations, hospitals and academia. Getting into those positions requires mentorship, training and skill sets that women don’t always have the opportunity to acquire for a wide range of reasons
  • There is not enough recognition that female doctors who choose to work fewer hours may do so because of societal expectations. Women typically bear more of the burden of raising children, running a household and caring for elders. There is not enough on-site daycare at work sites and at conferences, or flexible working arrangements to make work-life balance easier to achieve

Keri Sweetman is an Edmonton-based writer.