(Lack Of) Compensation Equity For Female Faculty Members

Gender Bias: In 1995, a representative sample of medical school faculty showed that, adjusted for confounders, female physician faculty made about $12,000 less than their male counterparts, a difference that increased with longer employment.  In a follow-up survey 17 years after the first, there was a 48% response rate which did not differ by gender.  The results are depressingly familiar.  Women are compensated about $17,000 per year less than men, after adjustment for traditional factors such as academic rank, specialty, and clinical vs. teaching or research focus.  Looking at compensation over time, it appeared that this was due more to a smaller starting salary for women vs. lower annual increases.  A history of part-time employment or leave of absence for >2 months was associated with almost $28,000 lower total compensation, even though the median leave was 6 months and the median duration of part-time employment 2.75 years.  As a side issue, a focus on teaching was particularly injurious to compensation – for each 1% increase in time devoted to teaching, pay decreased by over $1,000 per year.   Women also appeared to pay a higher social price in balancing demands of work and home life.  They were less likely than male faculty members to be married/partnered, to have children, or to attain full professor status.

In their discussion, the authors suggest that things are not getting better, citing recent data that female hospitalists “earn substantially less than their male colleagues, although working similar hours.”   They end with a plea to academic institutions to address these inequities with robust policies and review. — Laura Willett, MD

Freund KM, Raj A, Kaplan SE, Terrin N, Breeze JL, Urech TH, Carr PL. Inequities in Academic Compensation by Gender: A Follow-up to the National Faculty Survey Cohort Study. Acad Med. 2016 Jun

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