News and Commentary

Doctor Tells Truth About Gender Pay Gap In Medicine. Then He Was Forced To Apologize.

Telling the truth – albeit not in the best terms – about why women in any particular field earn less than men in the same field will automatically trigger an online rage mob screaming “sexism!’ as Plano, Texas doctor Gary Tigges learned this past week.

Tigges was interviewed (he says he didn’t know his statements would be published) for the Dallas Medical Journal and gave a reason for why female doctors earn less than male doctors.

“Female physicians do not work as hard and do not see as many patients as male physicians. This is because they choose to, or they simply don’t want to be rushed, or they don’t want to work the long hours. Most of the time, their priority is something else … family, social, whatever,” Tigges told the Journal. “Nothing needs to be ‘done’ about this unless female physicians actually want to work harder and put in the hours. If not, they should be paid less. That is fair.”

First, let’s break down Tigges’ comments.

Saying female physicians “do not work as hard” is a terrible way to say they don’t work as many hours. This seems to be what he was going for, as he said it again “work harder and put in the hours” later in his statement. I see those statements as connected, not separated — as in, he’s qualifying the “work harder” claim rather than making two separate claims.

I say this because it’s a common saying when people who are not orators discuss the wage gap (which should be called an “earnings gap”). Harvard Economist Claudia Goldin used similar language when she was discussing the gap back in 2016.

Not seeing as many patients as men goes back to the working fewer hours claim, as Tigges mentioned in his very next sentence.

He then mentions women’s priorities. We don’t know what he said that required the ellipses, but he’s awkwardly talking about women in general wanting more flexibility in the workplace. The Washington Post, which just reported on the outrage surrounding Tigges’ comments, admitted that everything the doctor said was true, but still found a way to describe it as discrimination.

“Many female doctors do work fewer hours and see fewer patients, but not because of laziness or lack of drive, according to studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Medical Association. Female physicians shoulder more of the burden at home; those with kids work an average of 11 fewer hours a week than ones without, according to a 2017 study by JAMA Internal Medicine,” the Post wrote. “Their extra burdens at home are used against them — to justify their lower pay and elevate men’s higher pay, according to Kim Templeton, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.”

Templeton is then quoted as saying there’s an assumption that male doctors “should make more because they are taking care of the family.”

The Post first ignores that Tigges never claimed female physicians are lazy or not driven. It then referred to children twice as “burdens.” I imagine most women with children don’t see them as a “burden.”

This is something purveyors of the gender-wage-gap myth love to do. They describe children as nothing more than a drag on one’s career, completely ignoring the fact that most women love their children and want to spend more time with them, and if they are in a position to do so – through working fewer hours – they will. Men, on the other hand, earn more after having a child if they have a wife who decides to work less to care more for the child. Men tend to be viewed then as cash machines rather than parents.

Tigges was forced to apologize for his remarks, and said that his comments were taken out of context and he didn’t know they would be published.

“My response sounds terrible and horrible and doesn’t reflect what I was really trying to say,” Tigges said. “I’m not saying female physicians should be paid less, but they earn less because of other factors.”

He then apologized.

“I have heard from several trusted female physician colleagues who disagree with and are deeply hurt and offended by the comments,” Tigges said. “I sincerely apologize to all female physicians for my comments and the pain they have caused.”

Tigges provided the Dallas Morning News with data to back up his claims. Meanwhile, on Twitter, the outrage mob claimed data didn’t support his claims (without providing any). Even in The Washington Post’s attempts to cover for the mob, it used data that supported what Tigges said: Female doctors work fewer hours because they prioritize their children.

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