Female doctors ‘don’t work as hard’: furore over journal comments

Medical politics

By Tessa Hoffman

5 Sep 2018

A US physician has sparked a furious backlash after saying the gender pay gap in medicine exists because female doctors “don’t work as hard” as their male counterparts.

Dr Gary Tigges, a Texas-based internal medicine physician, was roundly called out on social media for his comments in the Dallas Medical Journal, which quickly made news headlines across the world.

Responding to the journal’s poll question which asked readers whether they believe a gender pay gap exists between male and female physicians, Dr Tigges from Plano, Texas said:

“Yes, there is a pay gap. Female physicians do not work as hard and do not see as many patients as male physicians… Nothing needs to be ‘done’ about this unless female physicians actually want to work harder and put in the hours.”

Dr Tigges has since publicly apologised for the comments “and the pain they have caused”, saying they were taken out of context.

Responding on Twitter, commentator Nicole Saphier MD wrote: “Oh, Gary. Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. I challenge you to compare your “man schedule” to my “woman schedule” any day to see who works more.”

The pay gap in medicine has been a hot topic in the US off the back of recent media reports that female doctors early 64% of their male counterparts’ salaries, and the gulf between male and female doctors’ incomes in Australia has previously been reported by the limbic.

But criticism towards the Texas physician should be redirected to the many medical institutions that perpetuate these “antiquated” views which are all too common in the US, said Dr Esther Choo, Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice at Brown University and Associate Director of the university’s division of sex and gender in Emergency Medicine.

On Twitter, Dr Choo roundly called out claims that women are paid less because they are less productive and distracted by family obligations as “not supported by data”, adding it is discrimination that is responsible for the problem.

In an editorial in the blog feminem, Dr Choo wrote: that Tigges’ view was not unique, rather “they have been echoed by many others in this and earlier conversations,” she wrote. “Giving a platform to these voices moves our field backwards, and suggests to the public that medicine is a field stuck in a bygone era.”

“Nevertheless, the Dallas Medical Journal’s blunder gave us an opportunity to get to some fundamental questions,” she wrote.

“Why do healthcare organizations and journal editors still not know that the question to pose is not whether a gender pay gap exists, but what to do about the established pay gap?  How can we help healthcare leaders understand the pay gap as well as other types of gender and maternal discrimination in medicine and the associated negative sequelae on the medical workforce? When will a critical mass of leaders in health care be inspired to allow our field to engage meaningfully in the long term, dedicated work it will take to devise and employ effective, system-based interventions to reduce current compensation gaps and prevent future gaps?

For his own part, Dr Tigges, who practices at Plano Internal Medicine in Texas, posted the following statement on the practice’s website.

“I have heard from several trusted female physician colleagues who disagree with and are deeply hurt and offended by the comments I made to the Dallas Medical Journal regarding pay equity among female and male physicians.

“I want to thank them for reaching out to me and sharing their concerns. I now understand more clearly how intricate this issue is and that there are ways we can work together to resolve these disparities.

“I have worked closely with numerous female physicians for nearly three decades and have witnessed nothing but compassion, diligence and professionalism.

I sincerely apologize to all female physicians for my comments and the pain they have caused.”

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