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Gender-based salary gap persists among academic emergency medicine physicians

The authors said the reasons for salary disparities by gender are unclear, but may include the presence of conscious and unconscious biases.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Although overall salaries for emergency physicians have increased over the past four years -- and despite a call to end gender disparities in salary -- men still make 18 percent more than women, and a $12,000 gender salary gap remains essentially unchanged. That's the finding of a study published in a special issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

In what it claims is likely the first study that evaluates this trend over such a long time period, and considers both traditional academic and academic-community salaries by gender, researchers found that the salary disparity is greatest among more senior faculty -- that is, associate and full professors.

The authors said the reasons for salary disparities by gender are unclear, but may include the presence of conscious and unconscious biases or initial recruitment negotiation skills despite the medical specialization.

IMPACT

A 17‐year longitudinal random sample of faculty from 24 U.S. medical schools found that women earned a mean of $20,520 less than men and made 90 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The difference was still $16,982 after adjusting for covariates.

Overall salaries for emergency physicians have increased over the past four years, but the $12,000 gender-based salary gap still remains, and compensation inequities have popped up in other acute care provider settings, including EMS and physician assistants.

The gender pay gap has lifelong financial effects, the authors said.

In most academic institutions there are salary bands based on academic rank. That means there's a theoretical opportunity to adjust salary disparities at each level of promotion. But the data shows that this is not occurring, and that the salary disparity is greatest among more senior faculty.

As more women enter the field and are promoted, conscientious chairs will need to prioritize pay parity to change this persistent trend, the authors said.

THE TREND

Even healthcare research isn't immune to the gender pay gap, and it can add up over time.

At the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, efforts to eliminate such a gender disparity have cut the difference in salaries from 2.6 percent in 2005 to a statistically insignificant 1.9 percent in 2016. But even with that improvement and seemingly small pay gap, women faculty are likely to accumulate much less wealth over their lifetimes, the college found.

The researchers used new models of wealth accumulation -- taking into consideration how much faculty make, time between promotions, and the effects of salary on retirement and other savings -- to calculate the numbers.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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