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Female Faculty Generally Paid Less at U.S. Public Medical Schools

BOSTON – Salaries for female physicians lag behind men, even in public medical schools, according to a large new study of what faculty members get paid.

The report, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, notes that women physicians earn an average of $20,000 per year less than men, even after adjusting for factors likely to influence income.

The study, led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS), analyzed data for physicians employed at 24 public medical schools.


"More than raising attention to salary sex differences in medicine, our findings highlight the fact that these differences persist even when we account for detailed factors that influence income and reflect academic productivity," said lead author Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Medicine and the HMS Department of Health Care Policy. "The fact that we observed these income differences among physicians who are public employees raises issues that may have state regulatory implications."

For the study, researchers merged data on employee information — including names, titles, and salaries — from public medical schools in 12 states that make such information available online with information from the Doximity database of more than 700,000 U.S. physicians, including age, gender, faculty rank, university affiliation, specialty, year of residency completion, clinical practice (reflected by receiving Medicare payments), and several factors reflecting research activity.

With a final sample of nearly 10,250 physician faculty members, 35% female, the unadjusted average annual salaries of women were almost 20% less — $206,641 vs. $257,947 — than those of male physicians.

Even after adjustment for several factors including age, experience, medical specialty, and academic rank, female physician faculty members still received salaries 8% lower than those of comparable male physicians ($227,783 vs. $247,661).

Results indicate that adjusted salary disparities were greatest for orthopedic surgery, obstetrics/gynecology (even though it is one of the specialties female physicians are most likely to enter) and other surgical subspecialties, and cardiology.

The least disparity was identified in family medicine and emergency medicine. In radiology, on the other hand, adjusted average salaries for women were slightly higher than for men.

Overall, the greatest advantages for male physicians were found in nine schools, especially in the western United States. Looking nationwide, two schools had higher adjusted salaries for female physicians.

"Our use of publicly available state employee salary data highlights the importance of physician salary transparency to efforts to reduce the male-female earnings gap," the study authors concluded.