There is a gender wage gap across professions and workplaces, and the field of medicine is no different. In one study of 10,000 doctors, female physicians earned an average of nearly $50,000 per year less than their male colleagues. Some say that besides being bad for women doctors, the pay gap is bad for patients, too. Doctor Julie Silver is looking to step in. She is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and with 600 of her female colleagues across medicine is launching a new initiative called the Be Ethical Campaign. That campaign kicks off at the third annual Harvard Career Advancement in Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare, which is a continuing education course directed by Dr. Silver through Harvard Medical School. Dr. Julie Silver spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about the campaign. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Barbara Howard: You've studied these disparities – can you talk about the scope of the problem?

Dr. Julie Silver: What we know is that healthcare is filled with highly qualified and talented women, and yet these disparities persist. Pay gap can be defined in a couple of different ways – one, with respect to women not working as many hours in part-time, taking time off from work. But the thing that's interesting is even when accounting for all of those factors which people often point to, like pregnancy, time off from work, and so on, women still get paid less.

Howard: How big a problem is it? Are we at risk of losing talent?

Dr. Silver: We already are losing talent. We are losing them due to burnout. Physician suicide is at an all-time high.

Howard: Does it skew higher for women?

Dr. Silver: More men commit suicide than women, but women have a higher rate of suicide as physicians.

Howard: This loss of talent - where does that leave patients?

Dr. Silver: Burnout is really high for physicians and for health care professionals, and when people don't feel valued in the workforce, that translates down for patients, too.

Also, when we have women leaving the workforce or taking more time off because they're burned out, because they're not paid well, because they don't feel valued - that's a problem.

Howard: You brought data to the table. Tell me some more revealing things that came out of the studies.

Dr. Silver: We looked at both micro-inequities, which are small subtle slights, like being left out of medical society newsletters. We found in one study we did that one out of three newsletters had no women physicians and their work represented, which is really a problem because 100 percent of the newsletters had men and their work represented. We also looked at macro-inequities, which is pay promotion and recognition awards. In one study, we found that over the past four years, no women in any category received recognition awards.

These are highly qualified, talented women who have accomplished a tremendous amount of things that they've done for medicine, for patients, that could be recognized.

Howard: What do you attribute this to? Is it the culture?

Dr. Silver: It comes from unconscious bias in part, but also not making an effort. More than 40 percent of medical schools in one study reported that they didn't have any special programs to support women or to recognize the disparities.

Howard: At your event that starts tomorrow and runs through Saturday, you're going to be launching the Be Ethical campaign. What exactly is that and what do you hope to do?

Dr. Silver: We're calling on top-tier leaders from hospitals, medical societies and journals to be ethical and use data and analytics to really drive decision making.

Howard: It sound like you're not exactly saying the people who are making these decisions are doing it in a willful way, but just out of ignorance, they just don't know the data. Is that what you're saying?

Dr. Silver: They don't know the data necessarily, and they're not owning the process of fixing it. And it also doesn't solve the problem just to give women a promotion. We have to do it all. And that's one of the problems that I think is really hard for some leaders is basically to say, wow, do we really have to do it all? And the answer is yes - you actually have to think like a scientist, you have to look at all of these different metrics, you have to figure out what you're doing well and where you have problems and fix the problems.

Howard: That’s Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School. She is spearheading the Be Ethical Campaign to raise awareness and fix the pay gap between men and women who practice medicine. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.