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Female researcher-physicians’ pay lags behind men’s, study finds

The gender gap persists in academic medicine, with women earning less than men who do similar work, researchers reported in JAMA.
(Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images)

The gender gap persists in academic medicine, with female physicians who do research earning about $13,000 a year less than their male counterparts, researchers reported Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

The coauthors, from the University of Michigan and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, surveyed 1,729 physician-researchers who received National Institutes of Health grants for career development between 2000 and 2003 -- reasoning that members of that cohort were likely to have similar aptitude and to conduct similar work.

Poring over self-reported salary information from 800 respondents who continue to practice at U.S. academic institutions, they found that the average annual income for men was $200,433 and for women was $167,669.

In the past, studies of gender differences in pay have suggested that women are paid less than men because they choose lower-paying specialties and work fewer hours. That held true in the current study as well, but only to a point. Women were more likely to be in the lowest-paying category of specialties than men (34% versus 22%) and were less likely to be in the highest-paying specialties (3% versus 11%). They were less likely to have administrative leadership positions, published less often, and worked fewer hours than their male colleagues (though they were hardly slacking off, at 58 hours a week.)

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But when the researchers adjusted for these differences, female physician-researchers still lagged behind in pay. “The expected salary for women, estimated by their own other characteristics but as if their gender were male, was $12,194 higher than that observed,” the authors wrote, adding that the disparity accounted for just 37.4% of the income difference between genders.

Over time, they calculated, such a difference would mean that over the course of her career, the average woman in the examined group would bring home more than $350,000 less than “similarly-situated” men.


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