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How Female Surgeons Can Negotiate Higher Salaries

By Anna Mueller, MS24 Sep 2018

While many organizations across the country have launched efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace, the gender pay gap still exists. And even though women make up 80% of the healthcare industry, according to data shared by The Advisory Board, female doctors earned an average of $105,000 less than their male counterparts in 2017, according to survey data from Doximity.


One factor contributing to this disparity is that women are less likely to negotiate on salary than men. By exercising negotiation skills, women surgeons can help close the gender pay gap in the healthcare industry.

Here’s how female surgeons can negotiate higher salaries.

1. Recognize that negotiation is always an option.

57% of men have attempted salary negotiations compared with only 7% of women, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University. Healthcare organizations rarely (if ever) let candidates know they’re willing to negotiate on pay, and many surgeons opt not to ask for more money.

This is mostly due to self-biases and the belief that an organization would punish a candidate for asking, or give the opportunity to someone else. However, negotiation is always an option. In fact, many employers set aside more budget for a role than the salary they offer.

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Before you walk into a salary negotiation conversation, be sure to do your research. Check websites like Indeed and Glassdoor to determine the typical salary range for someone at your career level in your geographic area and feel free to use this data as justification for your salary request. It’s also helpful to prepare and practice your talking points ahead of the conversation. Be sure to highlight any special skills or experiences that increase your value to the organization.

3. Advocate for yourself the same way you do for your patients.

As a surgeon, you always want the best for your patients and likely spend a great deal of time and effort advocating for patients to make sure they get the best care possible—and the best chance of recovery post-surgery. In other words, you already have the skills necessary to prepare a case and successfully negotiate, and it’s important you’re able to use these skills for your own best interests, too.

4. Aim high.

One of the best things you can do in salary negotiations is to start at the top of your ideal salary range. Often the goal of a negotiation is to reach a compromise, and it’s likely your employer will counter your initial salary request with something lower. By starting high, female surgeons can ensure the salary the employer agrees upon is still within their preferred range.

Ultimately employers are responsible for closing the pay gap and ensuring everyone is paid fairly, but improving your negotiation skills can help ensure you’re getting the compensation you deserve. Like any skill, salary negotiations take practice. The more you exercise this right, the more natural it will feel.

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