The findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine were based on salary data for academic physicians at 24 public medical schools in 12 states.
In all, more than 10,000 physicians’ salaries were analyzed. About one third of those in the study were women, “a proportion comparable to that seen among other US medical schools not included in the study,” said the report.
In raw numbers, without accounting for factors such as age and experience, women earned $206,641 per year, compared to $257,957 for men — a difference of more than $51,000.
A closer look revealed that faculty rank, age, years since residency, specialty, clinical trial participation and having had one’s research published accounted for some of the pay differences, but not all.
After factoring in these modifiers, women still earned on average $19,878 per year less than men, said the report.
“Our use of publicly available state employee salary data highlights the importance of physician salary transparency to efforts to reduce the male-female earnings gap,” said the study, led by Anupam Jena, a doctor at Harvard Medical School.
The biggest gaps were seen among specialty surgeons, and women at the top of their profession scale earned about as much as men at mid-level ranks.
“Salaries for female full professors ($250,971) were comparable to those of male associate professors ($247,212),” it said.
Women tended to be younger than men, and more women specialized in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.
“Women also had fewer total publications, were less likely to have funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and less likely to have conducted a clinical trial,” said the report.
An accompanying editorial in the journal called for the “courage and leadership of women academic physicians… to advocate to eliminate” the pay gap.
“Fixing the pay gap between male and female physicians in academic medicine requires more than just studies showing that it exists; concerted efforts are needed to understand and eliminate the gap,” wrote Vineet Arora, a doctor at the University of Chicago.
“It is time that the ‘woman card’ be worth the same amount as the ‘man card.'”