Unexplained gender pay gap persists among physician researchers

Male early-career physician researchers are paid more than female ones, and it's not clear why, according to a new study in Academic Medicine.

Certain factors, such as specialty, work hours, research time and academic rank couldn't account for 17 percent of the total pay disparity in the full sample, according to lead researcher Reshma Jagsi, M.D., of the University of Michigan Health System and her team. However, they said spousal employment explained about a third of this gap.

"Given the large differences in family composition between men and women physicians (i.e., women generally have partners who are employed full-time, whereas men generally do not)," the researchers wrote, "salary setting may possibly be influenced by extraprofessional assumptions about gender, rather than by actual credentials or performance."

The gap was larger in higher-paying specialties, such as emergency medicine and gastroenterology, with men earning $195,771 on average, compared to an average of $165,114 for women. The researchers speculated one possible reason for the disparity may be because women tend to be less aggressive in salary negotiations and often are criticized for initiating negotiations.

The researchers make recommendations for how to address these factors, such as negotiation workshops for female faculty and expanding eligibility for such programs to include female residents and fellows, as well as bias literacy workshops for division chiefs, department chairs and medical school administrators.

A September study found the overall pay disparity between men and women in medicine has continued to grow, and is currently more than $56,000 a year. Although the number of female physicians increased steadily during the study period, men earned 25.3 percent more than women between 2006 and 2010, up from 16.3 percent between 1996 and 2000. A 2012 study found over a 30-year career, the pay disparity for physicians reaches $350,000, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract