New PAs: Ask Questions and Know Your Value

Leadership Expert Addresses Common Concerns  Like Gender Pay Gap, Diversity and Negotiating Salary 

June 17, 2019

By Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C, Leadership and Career Expert

On several occasions during AAPA 2019, I heard the same questions from women preparing to enter the PA workforce – “How do I know what salary to ask for?” and, “How will I know if my salary is equal to my male colleagues?”

Many new providers do not ask questions about salary. It may sound easy enough; unfortunately, taking the direct approach of simply asking a potential employer to tell you the salaries for current employees in an equal position is not something that many PAs do.

This topic dominated much of the Q&A following the AAPA 2019 session that I hosted with Jamie Silkey, PA-C, CHLM: Taking a Seat at the Table: Lessons for PA Leaders. Lots of women stepped up to the microphone to openly express their uncertainty about how to navigate the process.

Clearly, this is a conversation that our profession needs to keep having. And experienced PAs from all corners of health care need to empower their younger counterparts.

I stress the importance of ensuring that your starting salary is fair and equitable because once you accept a contract, it takes an insurmountable amount of effort to get an increase that is equitable to your counterpart. In addition, during your yearly review, it is hard to play catch up as you are already starting below the market salary.

While the PA profession is female dominated (about 70%) that does not make our field immune to the gender pay gap.

In fact, the 2018 AAPA Salary Report found that female PAs are paid on average 94 cents for every dollar that male PAs are paid. This discrepancy is found even after controlling for factors such as hours worked, specialty practice, experience, and other career variables.

So, what can early career PAs do to turn this around? First and foremost: Arm yourself with information.

Research organizations and ensure that the culture of equity based on experience is best practice. It is hard to ask for what you do not know but not asking at all has greater consequences.

AAPA has many resources available to help PAs close the wage gap. If you haven’t already, spend some time in AAPA’s Career Central WagePArity Resources. Be sure you have the tools you need to effectively negotiate your pay and benefits.

Diversity among teams is just as important. Jamie Silkey spoke about diverse teams promote growth, engagement, and a robust team culture. Recognizing diversity and unconscious bias helps to break down silos and build common goals.

Finally, I encourage young women to remember that equality in the workplace isn’t just about equal pay. Advocacy, forming leadership skills, building diverse teams and relationships are great foundational pillars no matter what stage you are in your career.

Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C, leads CHLM’s advisory services and the employer strategies for both CHLM and AAPA. Contact her at alowe@aapa.org

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