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News Release - Closing the gender pay gap in medicine: an action plan

Monday, August 31, 2020

(August 31, 2020) Queen’s University researcher Michelle Cohen (Family Medicine) along with Tara Kiran (St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto) have uncovered in Ontario, male family physicians earn 30 per cent more and male specialists earn 40 per cent more than their female counterparts on average. 

Research from the United States and United Kingdom indicates that the pay gap persists after adjusting for physician age, specialty, number of hours worked and other factors. In Canada, the proportion of women physicians has grown from 11 per cent in 1978 to 43 per cent in 2018 but make up only 8 per cent of Ontario’s highest billing physicians. 

Actions to close the pay gap include:  

  • Transparent data, including reporting of physician payments by gender and other demographic characteristics  
  • Anti-oppression training of leadership  
  • Addressing gender bias in medical schools and medical curricula  
  • Standard, fair, and transparent hiring and promotion practices  
  • Actively seeking and encouraging women for leadership roles
  • Better maternity and parental leave programs 

The research was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 

“Women in medicine face discrimination throughout their careers,” the authors write. “This discrimination is rooted in the history of women’s exclusion from the profession along with the institutional legacies of sexism in medical schools, clinical care arrangements, health organizations, and the fee system itself. In the early career state, the hidden curriculum both subtly and overtly encourages women trainees to enter specific, often lower-paid specialties.”  

Michelle Cohen, Department of Family Medicine, Queen’s University 

“Work to address gender pay equity in medicine cannot be done in isolation. The medical profession should remain mindful of the relative privilege of physicians in society and support advances for women struggling in precarious, lower-paid work; solutions for the medical profession should not exacerbate broader societal income inequality. Efforts to close the gender pay gap in medicine should embrace efforts to measure and reduce pay gaps related to other intersecting forms of discrimination, including race and disability.”   

Tara Kiran, St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto 

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Media contact 
Anne CraigMedia Relations Officer 

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