Any woman physician who is in the senior ranks must be obligated to start changing the culture and making sure the fairness issue gets raised and is an important part of their agenda. Enough women are now part of the physician population. They have to start saying, ‘We are a group to be reckoned with, and we are going to make changes.’
—Linda Brodsky, MD, pediatric otolaryngologist, Buffalo, N.Y., co-chair, AMWA Gender Equity Task Force
Organizations can conduct self-audits to assess whether men and women are being compensated equitably, then make adjustments when necessary, Dr. Gault says. Policies can be adopted to promote pay transparency and allow employees to discuss compensation and suggest ways it can be improved, she adds. In workplaces where compensation discussions are discouraged, women can try to informally speak with their male friends to gather information and determine if there’s a pay gap problem.
Equal pay laws, such as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, exist at the federal level. But Dr. Gatta says work must be done on the enforcement end to make a real difference. Similarly, Dr. Brodsky describes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a toothless oversight agency with limited power to investigate complaints and assess fines.
“It’s on women to go and be the whistleblower, the policeman, and pay for legal action. It’s impossible,” she says. “When you utter the words ‘gender discrimination,’ immediately, retaliation goes into high gear.”
While employers and enforcement agencies have a significant role in closing the pay gap, women themselves must collectively advocate for equal pay, Dr. Gault says.
“Any woman physician who is in the senior ranks must be obligated to start changing the culture and making sure the fairness issue gets raised and is an important part of their agenda,” Dr. Brodsky says. “Enough women are now part of the physician population. They have to start saying, ‘We are a group to be reckoned with, and we are going to make changes.’”
Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
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