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

June 13, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • The gender gap persists in academic medicine, with women earning less than men who do similar work, researchers reported in JAMA.
The gender gap persists in academic medicine, with women earning less than… (Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty…)

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.)

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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