Decades before Jane Knapp developed the emergency services division and became chair of graduate medical education at Children’s Mercy Hospital she was a surgeon in training, reaching for an instrument in the operating room when the male surgeon in charge interrupted her.
“He said ‘You’re a woman and a lefty,’” Knapp recalled recently. “As if it were two strikes against me.”
Much has changed since then thanks to pioneers like Knapp, who retired last year after 39 years of practicing medicine.
But a new study suggests female doctors in Kansas City still aren’t treated equally to their male peers, at least in terms of pay.
The study by Doximity, a social network for physicians, found that there was a 27 percent gap between what male and female doctors earn in Kansas City — the 13th largest gap in America’s 50 largest metro areas.
In all 50 markets combined, the gap was 26.5 percent, with Charlotte (33 percent) and Durham (31 percent) the areas with the largest differences. The smallest gender pay gap in the study was Sacramento’s 19 percent average.
Chris Whaley, Doximity’s lead researcher on the project, said the company didn’t try to determine the reasons for the national pay gap. But it persisted across all medical specialties and, with data based on 36,000 doctors, Whaley said he’s confident it’s accurate.
“I think that what we’re seeing is actually real and something that exists within the medical community,” Whaley said. “When we think about why this goes on and what’s the underlying reason, that’s something we didn’t get into. Hopefully that’s the beginning of another stream of research.”
According to the American Association of University Women, the gender pay gap across all professions nationwide in 2015 was about 20 percent. It was slightly higher in Missouri (22 percent) and Kansas (23 percent).
Compared to other female physicians nationwide, Kansas City’s female doctors are doing well, with an average pay of $259,000 that ranks 15th.
Kansas City ranked 13th in the study in average compensation for all physicians, at about $332,000 and 14th in average compensation for all primary care doctors at about $254,000.
Joel Davis, Doximity’s vice president of strategic analytics, said the company is looking for other ways to use the data to provide career guidance to its physician members.
That could include exploring why doctors who live near major medical institutions tend to get paid less, or why female physicians tend to get paid less.
“That’s one area we could dive into further,” Davis said. “We could start to look more closely at the gender gap data to see if we could identify different causations.”