Gender pay gap extends to academic medicine where female department chairs earn thousands less

Medicine Money
Researchers were surprised at the pay gap they found among clinical department chairs at U.S. medical schools. (Getty/utah778)

That pervasive gender pay gap among doctors extends to the highest levels of academic medicine, a new study found.

Female department chairs at public medical schools in the U.S. earn about $70,000 to $80,000 less per year on average than their male counterparts, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"The observed salary disparities reveal the pervasiveness of sex inequity even at the highest levels of academic medicine's hierarchy," the study authors said.

They found that after taking into account multiple factors, including academic productivity, women working as clinical department chairs earned $0.88 for every dollar earned by men.

The finding wasn’t what the researchers expected. “Given that department chairs are exceptional leaders who have reached the top rank of their specialties, we hypothesized that there would be no significant differences in salary between female and male department chairs,” the study authors wrote.

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Instead, they found the same widespread gender pay gap reported among other medical professionals.

The researchers examined 2017 salary data from 29 public medical schools in 12 states. They compared salaries of 550 clinical department chairs, including 92 women. The unadjusted mean gender pay gap was $79,061, with male chairs earning an average of $452,359 per year and female chairs receiving an average of $373,298.

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After adjusting for factors such as medical specialties, position titles and time in their positions, women still earned on average $67,517 less than men.

The pay gap was even worse for department chairs who held their positions for a decade or more. Comparing chairs who had served for more than 10 years, women earned $127,411 less than men.

A 2018 survey of doctors in Maryland found male physicians make almost 50% more than females. A separate survey found that while the gender pay gap narrowed for the first time in 2018, female physicians still make less than their male counterparts.