Research explores work, wealth and worth for women in ophthalmology
PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — Wage disparity in ophthalmology is a complex topic, with growing interest in research on career advancement, recognition and income of women, according to Ashvini Reddy, MD, associate professor at Dean McGee Eye Institute.
A 2017 report looking at CMS collections between 2012 and 2013 concluded that women have only recently come to represent about 20% of ophthalmologists and that there are disparities in wages between women and men, Reddy told colleagues at the Women in Ophthalmology 2018 Summer Symposium.
Disparity is manifest not only in performance-based salary but also in federal research funding and peer-reviewed authorship opportunities. Furthermore, women in ophthalmology may be less likely to obtain fellowships, particularly in vitreoretinal diseases and refractive surgery, she said.
The main aim of the analysis of Medicare data was to determine whether there was disparity and how it related to clinical activity, she said. However, the analysis was not designed to explain why any disparity existed.
“So, the question you are left with is, what is the root of these differences?” she asked.
Personal choices are factors, with some physicians placing more importance on work-life balance opportunities. In national surveys of ophthalmologists, only 4% of women reported “making good money at a job I like” as the most rewarding aspect of their job. However, only 38% of female ophthalmologists were satisfied with their income compared with 41% of male ophthalmologists.
Whereas women represent half of all medical school graduates, Reddy said, “Parity might lag behind representation because you have to get your foot in the door. You have to build a practice. And then, influence and success may take some time to achieve.”
Further research is needed to increase transparency and help close the gender gap in compensation because there is a cost in neglecting the issue, she said.
“When you look at the big picture, looking at  AMA survey data, if a woman earning $50,000 less a year than a man looks at the cumulative loss, without accounting for interest, retirement benefits and things like that, relative to a man, she faces an individual potential loss of about $1.5 million. With 4,500 female ophthalmologists in the United States, if you multiply all of that out, that’s $6.7 billion over the course of our career. That’s a very large number,” Reddy said. “I think it is something that you should pay attention to.” – by Patricia Nale, ELS
Reddy A. Women in ophthalmology: Work, wealth and worth. Presented at: Women in Ophthalmology 2018 Summer Symposium; Aug. 16-19, 2018; Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Disclosure: No products or companies that would require financial disclosure are mentioned in this article.