Female doctors and scientists are paid much less than their male counterparts according to new research completed at the University of Michigan Health System and Duke University. The findings have appeared in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers took into account factors such as age, medical specialties, academic titles, work hours, and any other elements that could influence salary. A male’s yearly average salary in the field was concluded to be $12,000 higher than a female’s. Over a time period of 30 years, the difference adds up to more than $350,000.
The results are sobering and “disappointing. I think we have much work to do,” said lead author Dr. Reshma Jagsi, a breast cancer radiation specialist and researcher at the University of Michigan.
There have been many reasons given in attempting explain why this difference is prevalent. Dr. Jagsi suggested that people in hiring positions may be unconsciously biased toward hiring men.
Two leading female members in the medical field, as interviewed by the Associated Press claimed that men were better at self-promotion, as well as more assertive in asking for pay raises. “Male faculty members are willing to negotiate more aggressively. It may be social and cultural. It seems to be fairly deep-rooted,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. She also said that men ask more frequently than women for increases in both salary and promotion.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed and added, “There were some moments when I was angry, but that was motivating. I thought it was an intolerable situation and it just motivated me to work harder. She left the Center for Disease Control in 2009 and now heads Merck & Co.’s vaccine unit.
While previous studies have already found that female doctors are paid less than male doctors, researchers have concluded that the pay gap may be due in part to having children. In that case, women tend to pick up less hours and less time-consuming occupations in order to leave room to raise children. However, the new study found that more women tend to work in less lucrative specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine, while more men work in the higher-paying specialties, such as heart surgery and radiology. Still, salary inequalities were evident between both men and women without parental duties in similar fields.
Ann Bonham, chief scientific officer at the American Association of Medical Colleges stated, “Institutions need to take this information seriously and take a hard and closer look at their own salary parity issues.”
The matter of gender pay inequality isn’t just limited to the medical profession. Pay inequality has been a hot topic of debate for many years, and could become an issue to watch for yet in the upcoming 2012 U.S. Presidential Elections.