NEGOTIATING YOUR FIRST CONTRACT
American Heart Association Women in Cardiology Blog Series
NEGOTIATING YOUR FIRST CONTRACT
Victoria Thomas MD, Simone Bailey MD, Sherry-Ann Brown MD PhD
Women are less likely to negotiate their contracts than men 1-3. Approximately 20% of women do not engage in contract negotiation 1. Despite improvements over time in the number of women negotiating their contracts, disparities persist in compensation and rank 4-5. Further, few resources exist to specifically guide women on how to negotiate salary and other beneficial components of the contract.
Optimal negotiation of your contract positions you well for future opportunities, promotion, visibility, and professional satisfaction. Know the process of negotiating your contract (Box 1, Image), know the perks or components of your contract (Box 2, Image), and know the resources available to you as you navigate and negotiate your contract (Box 3, Image). When reviewing contracts, consider the entire package, including malpractice insurance (with tail), paid time off, noncompete stipulations, salary, and incentives 6. Remember, time is money! Negotiate the allocation of your time: in/outpatient, research, medical education, and administration. If you are in academics, consider your incoming rank, clinical title, future promotion opportunities, and research funding if applicable. A clinical title may not cost the department and could set you up for deserved recognition and administrative time. Contracts should specify the requirements and duties of the physician and the employer explicitly, provide clear compensation models, and define term and termination protocols.
Weigh all options, such as preferences for an academic or private practice setting. Be cognizant of important non-work factors: geographic location, significant others, children, and recreational activities, as these greatly affect working decisions. Be firm on your deal makers and breakers prior to contract negotiations 6. Ask for more than you really want. This will likely lead to compromise down to a mutually accepted agreement. Be sure to present special requests in a manner that creates shared interests, and have these written into the contract. It is acceptable to communicate your desires early on and your concerns as the process evolves and recommend modifications that you would like to implement. Remember, verbal promises or assurances are not contractually valid. It is also advised to seek legal counsel with expertise in physician contracts to help you identify loopholes, pitfalls, and modifiable terms.
When entering negotiations, remember to be respectful, humble, appreciative, and also know your worth. The 2020 Medscape Cardiology Compensation Report found that male cardiologists earn approximately 16% more than their female colleagues 7. The average salary for men was $449,000, while women averaged $386,000 7. A study has shown that women lose an average of $7,000 in their first-year salary and may lose up to $1,000,000 over the span of each of their careers 1. As a means to reduce the wage gap, women must increase their efficacy and advocacy through contract salary negotiations. Let the employer make the initial salary offer so that you do not ask for less than you may have been offered or lead them to think that salary is your top priority. Review national reports to determine average salaries for similar physicians in your state of interest and talk with trusted colleagues 8. Other factors such as call, relocation fees, sign-on bonus, student loan repayment, and continuing medical education time and expenses can be negotiated as part of your compensation packet.
In your negotiations, make your best pitch 9. Demonstrate your uniqueness as a candidate and show your creativity. Develop new strategies using your specific skillsets to benefit your employer in areas with knowledge or personnel gaps. Adequate preparation is the most emphasized skill in negotiating any contract. Look ahead of time at what your employer needs and listen well in conversations (in and out of the formal scheduled interview) and emails 9-10. Recognize that every conversation whether in-person, by phone, or through email is part of the negotiation process, and small talk is necessary (often sprinkled in fairy dust). Lead with confidence, and be open to concessions, to show your collaborative nature.
Align with the American Heart Association or American College of Cardiology Women in Cardiology Section, with an emphasis of early matriculation while in training. These organizations not only offer career development and networking opportunities, but they also offer sessions for contract negotiation. Contract negotiation preparation and practice will allow for greater success when navigating your first contract. This will help to overcome challenges related to compensation and promotion inequities, and better communicate career expectations prior to solidifying post-training employment.
BOX 1. NEGOTIATING YOUR FIRST CONTRACT: TIPS ON PROCESS
- Consider life outside of work: social climate, recreation, partner, children
- Discuss shared priorities and interests to support solutions with your employer
- Ensure the contract clearly states non-clinical roles and other promises which may have been made to you during the interview process
- Get in writing any specific unique requests that you may desire
- Review national reports on average salaries in your specialty and state
- Speak with trusted colleagues for an idea of fair wages for your specialty
- Ask for a higher salary if what is offered does not meet your expectations
BOX 2. NEGOTIATING YOUR FIRST CONTRACT: TIPS ON PERKS
- Sign-on bonus
- Relocation stipend
- Non-compete stipulations
- Malpractice insurance coverage with tail
- Inpatient vs. outpatient service
- Student Loan Repayment Plans
- Dedicated Administrative or Research Time
- PTO (CME, Vacation, Sick days, etc)
- Academic rank, promotion, and protected time for academic pursuits
BOX 3. NEGOTIATING YOUR FIRST CONTRACT: TIPS ON RESOURCES
- PracticeLink (website); understanding the job search process
- Getting to Yes (book); understanding negotiation
- Good to Great (book); understanding the goals of your employer
- ACC and AHA WIC Discussions; understanding strategies for women
- Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques
to Help You Become a Better Negotiator; understanding power of negotiation
- American Medical Group Association (AMGA) Compensation Survey;
comparing compensation by specialty, region, and group size
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Faculty Salary Survey Results; comparing compensation within academia
- Kugler, K. G., Reif, J. A. M., Kaschner, T., & Brodbeck, F. C. (2018). Gender differences in the initiation of negotiations: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 144(2), 198–222
- Bowles HR. Why women don’t negotiate their job offers.Harvard Business Review.https://hbr-org.proxy.library.vanderbilt.edu/2014/06/why-women-dont-negotiate-their-job-offers/. Published June 19, 2014. Accessed April 16, 2016.
- Jagsi R, Biga C, Poppas A, et al. Work activities and compensation of male and female cardiologists. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2016;67(5):529-541.
- Mehta, L. S., Fisher, K., Rzeszut, A. K., Lipner, R., Mitchell, S., Dill, M., … & Douglas, P. S. (2019). Current demographic status of cardiologists in the United States. Jama Cardiology, 4(10), 1029-1033
- Fisher, Roger, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton. Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin, 2011.
- Lo Sasso AT, Richards MR, Chou CF, Gerber SE. The $16,819 pay gap for newly trained physicians: the unexplained trend of men earning more than women. Health Aff (Millwood). 2011;30(2):193-201.
- Bowles, Hannah Riley, Bobbi Thomason, and Julia B. Bear. “Reconceptualizing what and how women negotiate for career advancement.” Academy of Management Journal62.6 (2019): 1645-1671.
- Fischer, Lauren H., and Anureet K. Bajaj. “Learning how to ask: women and negotiation.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery139.3 (2017): 753-758.
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