Female Clinical Department Chairs Face $70,000 Pay Gap

Nicola M. Parry, DVM

March 02, 2020

Female department chairs at US public medical schools earn about $70,000 to $80,000 less per year than male chairs, according to a study published online today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"After adjusting for academic productivity and multiple other factors, women earned $0.88 for every dollar received by men," write Michael Mensah, MD, MPH, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues.

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

Previous data have highlighted a widespread gender pay gap among medical professionals across different specialties, including data cited in a recent Medscape Compensation Report.

Because this gap is often attributed to differences in rank or productivity, Mensah and colleagues aimed to determine whether the gap persists among professionals at the highest ranks of academic medicine.

The researchers used publicly available 2017 salary data from 29 US public medical schools in 12 states.

Their study included 550 clinical department chairs, 92 (16.7%) of whom were women.

Comparing the data, the authors found an unadjusted mean gender pay gap of $79,061 (95% confidence interval [CI], $23,103 – $135,020; P < .01), with male chairs receiving an average of $452,359 per year and female chairs receiving an average of $373,298.

The gap was somewhat smaller but persisted after controlling for medical specialties, position titles, and time served in their positions, as well as for inflation and regional differences in cost of living. After the adjustments, women still earned $67,517 less than men did (95% CI, $13,474 – $121,561; P = .02).

The gap prevailed after adjusting for academic productivity and salary database. For example, even after controlling for chairs' numbers of publications and National Institutes of Health grant awards, women still earned $63,632.25 less (95% CI, $2757.13 – $124,507.40) .

Comparing chairs who had served for more than 10 years, women earned $127,411 less than men did (95% CI, $55,028 - $199,793; P < .01).

Mensah and colleagues emphasize that because the women in the study had demonstrated career commitment and negotiation skills, these new findings challenge commonly cited reasons for gender pay inequality.

"Our findings suggest that structural, rather than individual, solutions are needed to achieve sex salary equity," the authors conclude.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Several authors have reported receiving grants and support from a variety of government organizations, medical associations, and foundations. In addition several reported receiving stock options from Equity Quotient and being founding members of CareZooming and TIME'S UP Healthcare.

JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 2, 2020. Abstract

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