Men out-earn women in academic gastroenterology

Reuters Health Information: Men out-earn women in academic gastroenterology

Men out-earn women in academic gastroenterology

Last Updated: 2020-09-10

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) - Sex-based disparities in physician compensation can persist even within the same practice environment, a study of pay for academic gastroenterologists suggests.

Researchers examined data from the 2018-2019 Association of American Medical Colleges Faculty Salary Report on 1,644 gastroenterologists at public and private academic medical centers. Women were a minority of respondents (31%) overall, and they were also a minority of respondents with each academic title: instructors (37%), assistant professors (46%), associate professors (24%), and professors (24%).

While female instructors had higher median annual compensation than their male counterparts ($249,000 v $231,000), women earned less than men at other levels of academic gastroenterology and the wage gap increased with rising academic rank, researchers report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

"These results matter for both clinical care and patient outcomes because the gastroenterology community needs to recruit and retain more women," said study co-author Dr. Daniel Bushyhead of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Houston Methodist Hospital.

"More women in academic gastroenterology may lead to more research in gastrointestinal disorders that affect women, and some female patients may be more comfortable seeing a female doctor," Dr. Bushyhead said by email.

Among assistant professors, median annual compensation was 10% lower for women than for men ($288,000 v $319,000).

Among associate professors, median annual compensation was 13% lower for women ($333,000 v $384,000).

And among professors, median annual compensation was 15% lower for women ($336,000 v $393,000).

"The fact that female academic gastroenterologists get paid less than their male counterparts matters because female physicians deserve comparable pay in principle, and because this pay gap may drive female gastroenterologists away from the academic environment, which would negatively impact research and the recruitment of female trainees and faculty, who may want to see more women in senior leadership positions," Dr. Bushyhead said.

The main limitation of the study is that researchers were unable to account for differences in hours worked, and it's possible that this contributed to pay disparities.

Still, the findings are consistent with other studies looking at the gender pay gap in medicine, both generally and for gastroenterology subspecialists, said Dr. Susan Thompson Hingle, professor of medicine and associate dean for human and organizational potential at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.

"They confirm what we already know; women physicians are paid less than their male colleagues," Dr. Hingle, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email. "I am frustrated that we continue to have study after study that confirms the gender pay gap, rather than utilizing our resources to find solutions."

One potential solution described by the study authors might help, Dr. Hingle said.

Previous research suggests that a structured compensation plan designed to make salaries more transparent can help to increase pay for women without reducing it for men, the study team notes.

"This enhanced transparency resulted in an improvement in the gender pay gap," Dr. Hingle said. "I would like to see more studies focusing on the interventions and mitigation strategies rather than confirming the multitude of studies demonstrating the pay gap."

SOURCE: The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online August 6, 2020.

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