Battle of the Sexes: Who Makes More Money in the Academic Physician Workforce?

Salary Disparity Between Male and Female Physician Researchers

The age-old gender salary disparity question may have an answer, at least among the physician workforce, according to a new study published June 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study found that gender differences in salary do exist among a group of physicians who perform similar work.

The disparity is still apparent after adjusting for a number of variables which authors hypothesized may be the cause for the difference. The variables include medical specialty, characteristics of the institution in which they work, work hours, and academic productivity and rank.

The study focused on a homogenous group of 800 physician researchers, all of whom had been granted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 and K23 career development awards from 2000 to 2003 and continued to practice at in the U.S. at academic institutions. The authors found that the male salary was higher than the female salary by $13,399 (P=.001), even after the previously mentioned adjustments were made. The mean salary for the male gender was $200,433 (95% CI, $194,249 -$206, 617), while the female gender mean salary within the studied group was only $167,669 (95% CI, $158,417-$176,922).

“Much of the overall gender difference in salary observed in this study was explained by specialty,” wrote the authors. “Women were far less likely to be represented in higher-paying interventional specialties than men, with the notable exception of obstetrics and gynecology.”

The findings show that if the salary disparity is constant over an entire 30-year career, a woman in the study group will earn $350,000 less than a man in the same group. Authors emphasize that the “cumulative difference” would be significantly larger if not controlled for the variables like specialty, rank and leadership.

The study authors suggest that additional research is needed to investigate why these gender differences in compensation develop and how to diminish their impact, due to their continued presence and “difficulty to justify.”

For a clinical summary, read the CardioSource journal scan.

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