A Texas doctor was quoted in the Dallas Medical Journal saying that the reason there is a gender pay gap among doctors is because “female physicians do not work as hard or see as many patients as male physicians.” Dr. Gary Tigges has since issued an apology, but one man apologising for his discrimination doesn’t close the pay gap or the perception that women’s work is worth less. He claims he didn’t know his words would be published, but the bias he exhibited is detrimental, whether published or not. It underscores just how comfortable some people are with the idea that a person is less deserving of equal pay simply because of their gender.
In 2017, female doctors were paid 27.7% less than their male counterparts, reports CNN Money. Many of the excuses for this are outlined in Tigges’s initial quote: that men work harder and are therefore more deserving, that women prioritise family and social obligations over work, and that it is completely up to women to close the gap by working harder.
The idea that men work harder than women or that men are the primary earner in a family is an often-cited rationale for pay disparity. Studies have shown this is not the case. According to a 2016 study, women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of families. Pay inequality persists not because of reality, but because of perception. Another study showed that men who stayed late to help their colleagues were rated 14% more favourably than women who did the same thing. It’s not just about equal pay for equal work, it’s about equal recognition for equal work.
An additional factor contributing to women being paid less than men for their work is the belief that all women will leave their jobs to start families. However, studies show that the primary reasons women leave a job are the same as men. They leave for a job that pays more and because they don’t see growth opportunities.
“Nothing needs to be ‘done’ about this unless female physicians actually want to work harder and put in the hours,” reads Tigges’s quote. This excuse is used as a blanket rationalisation for inequality. The workplace is not the fair meritocracy we espouse it to be. Privilege, bias, and inequality exist, and to believe otherwise is to wilfully ignore what has been proven time and time again. It places the responsibility of a fair wage solely on the person being unfairly compensated.
As Tigges’s quote made its rounds on the internet, questions arose as to why the Dallas Medical Journal would even include his quote in the feature. “After considering the purpose of the series, we decided to publish it,” explained Gabriela Zandomeni, chair of the medical society’s communications committee to the Dallas Morning News. “When I read this response, I was outraged, as many female physicians are today. However, I believe that to incite change, we must expose the issues that need changing.”