Equal pay for equal work: It’s our time

11 Apr 2016

By Amalia Cochran

Let me start with some simple facts.

Female surgeons have the same training as male surgeons; we go to medical school, we spend the same amount of time in residency, we sit for the same board exams.

However, if you compare the earnings of full-time female surgeons to our male colleagues annually, we make 24% less.

Here’s a question for you: Do you believe that this is right?

The reality is that pay equity is a family issue; when women aren’t paid equitably, over our lifetimes we make anywhere from $700,000 to $2 million less than men.  That’s not ideal for the economy, and it’s definitely not good for families. Pay equity also results in a more engaged workforce.

It’s important to me as the current President of the Association of Women Surgeons to make people aware of this pay equity gap; everyone I have mentioned it to is surprised by it, and since we didn’t train 24% less (or take boards that were 24% less intensive) no one seems to think this is okay.

And while awareness is important, it’s also important to understand what you can do about pay parity.  The AWS will prepare a white paper on this later in the year (stay tuned for a) but I didn’t want to leave you without some strategies to get started.  Here are a few ideas, compliments of the AAUW.

  • Ask for, or generate, a workplace pay audit.
  • Encourage policies that support equity
    • Flexibility and family-friendly policies for men and women
  • Seek better benefits that benefit everyone
    • Family and medical leave, health insurance, emergency family care, and scheduling meetings that don’t intrude on family activities benefit everyone
  • Write a letter to the editor or op-ed, or ask for a commentary time on local media

Other things you can do:

  • Educate yourself- Catalyst has great information, as does Evelyn Murphy’s WAGE project
  • Sponsor a workshop to educate your mentees and your peers about negotiation techniques
  • Share this blog post!
  • Options are limited only by your imagination!

April 12 is Equal Pay Day in the US; for those not familiar with the idea, it’s the day of the year when women’s pay from the last year plus the first 3 1/2 months of this year equal what men made last year. I hope that you’ll use this week as an opportunity to speak out and to talk about #fairpay. It’s time, and we simply can’t wait.

To highlight the disparity, the Association of Women Surgeons will reduce the cost of a regular annual membership by 24% for new members who join between Equal Pay Day (April 12) and the end of May. Join AWS today!


Amalia Cochran, MD, FACS, FCCM is President of AWS and Associate Professor of Surgery Vice Chair of Education and Professionalism at the University of Utah, Department of Surgery. 

This post originally appeared on Dr. Cochran’s blog, Life in the Wild West

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