Discussing differences in earnings is always a tricky subject.
On the one hand, I want everyone to make as much money as possible. Capitalist societies thrive best when more people are making more money.
But on the other hand, a person’s earnings should always be based on merit. As soon as pay is no longer a meritocracy, it undermines the entire system.
As careful as I’ve tried to be with my words, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Dr. Gary Tigges from Plano, Texas.
Tigges was forced to issue an apology after remarks he made about the gender pay gap in medicine.
“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,” Tigges told the Dallas Medical Journal, according to the Washington Post.
“Nothing needs to be ‘done’ about this unless female physicians actually want to work harder and put in the hours,” Tigges continued. “If not, they should be paid less.”
His comments drew instant criticism and backlash.
Dear Gary Tigges, You have officially ticked off not just every intelligent physician – male and female – but a whole lot of #genetic counselors and #patients too. My #mother is a #Physician, many of my most valuable physician colleagues and friends are #female. You are #sexist pic.twitter.com/iWngR7peew
— My Gene Counsel (@MyGeneCounsel) September 1, 2018
This is Dr. Gary Tigges. Internal Medicine in Plano Texas. He is a sexist misogynist and a disgrace to our profession. These are his views recently published in the Dallas Medical Journal. Let’s make him famous.@GaryTigges pic.twitter.com/z9GllpkR5Q
— Faizah Bhatti (@faizahbhatti) September 1, 2018
In all fairness, Tigges undoubtedly could’ve worded his response better.
The most glaring culprit is the phrase “do not work as hard.” Had Tigges simply omitted that particular phrase, he would’ve still faced backlash, though none nearly as vitriolic as the kind he’s facing right now.
Tigges tried to qualify his statement by citing that women don’t see as many patients or work the same number of hours. Due to the widespread backlash, Tigges eventually addressed the controversy before issuing an apology.
“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.”
“I have heard from several trusted female physician colleagues who disagree with and are deeply hurt and offended by the comments,” he said. “I sincerely apologize to all female physicians for my comments and the pain they have caused.”
It’s a shame that Tigges said what he did because he was on the verge of making an actual point about the earnings gap in his field.
The Post states that studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Medical Association find that many female doctors actually do work fewer hours and see fewer patients. Another study by JAMA Internal Medicine found that female doctors with children work, on average, 11 fewer hours a week than female doctors with children.
This is not some sort of indictment against working mothers or anything of the sort. It’s simply a fact. It’s impossible to have the same amount of bandwidth when juggling both a demanding job and the task of raising children.
Love it or hate it, Tigges did expose a kernel of truth in the raging debates about earnings gaps.
He may have just chosen the worst possible way to do it.
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