Female academic physicians at public medical schools had lower average salaries than their male counterparts, a disparity that was only partly accounted for by age, experience, medical specialty, faculty rank and other factors, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
While the number of women in medicine has grown rapidly since the 1970s, significant sex differences persist in job achievement and compensation.
Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and coauthors analyzed salary information data for academic physicians at 24 public medical schools in 12 states using Freedom of Information laws. They combined that data with information on clinical and research productivity.
The study included 10,241 physician faculty members, of whom 3,549 (34.7 percent) were women and 6,692 (65.3 percent) were men, a proportion comparable to that seen among other U.S. medical schools not included in the study.
In unadjusted analyses that did not account other mitigating factors, women had lower average salaries than men -- $206,641 for women vs. $257,957 for men -- with an absolute difference in salaries of $51,315, according to the results.
Women physicians in the study were less likely than men to be full professors, they tended to be younger and more women specialized in internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics. Woman also had fewer total publications, were less likely to have funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and less likely to have conducted a clinical trial.
Still, factors including faculty rank, age, years since residency, specialty, NIH funding, clinical trial participation and publication count accounted for only a portion of the salary difference with a $19,878 difference remaining with average adjusted salaries of $227,783 for women and $247,661 for men.
Surgical specialties had the largest sex differences in salaries, while sex differences in salaries were present at all faculty ranks. For example, salaries for female full professors ($250,971) were comparable to those of male associate professors ($247,212), according to the results.
Study limitations included a lack of information on faculty track or part-time status. Also, reported incomes in some schools or states may exclude other payments to physicians and thus not reflect the full salary.
"Our use of publicly available state employee salary data highlights the importance of physician salary transparency to efforts to reduce the male-female earnings gap," the study concludes.
Commentary: It is Time for Equal Pay for Equal Work for Physicians -- Paging Dr. Ledbetter
"In a Supreme Court case, Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for unequal pay. ... Fixing the pay gap between male and female physicians in academic medicine requires more than just studies showing that it exists; concerted efforts are needed to understand and eliminate the gap. Fixing the gap will also require the courage and leadership of women academic physicians -- the "Dr. Lilly Ledbetters" out there -- to advocate to eliminate it. It is time that the "woman card" be worth the same amount as the "man card," writes Vineet M. Arora, M.D., M.A.P.P., of the University of Chicago.
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