Women medical researchers paid less than men

March 31st, 2010 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 31 (IANS) Women engaged in medical research receive lower levels of compensation than male counterparts, even at the upper levels of academic and professional accomplishment, says a new study.
The results indicated that women who reached the rank of full professor worked significantly more hours per week than men of the same rank, a difference primarily accounted for by more time spent in administrative and other professional tasks and not patient care, teaching or research.

“The gender gap in pay has been well documented, but what was not understood was whether academic accomplishments could overcome the pay gap,” says Catherine DesRoches, Mongan Institute of Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the study.

“Our study found that, across the board, men are being paid substantially more than equally qualified and accomplished women at academic medical centres,” adds DesRoches, also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

Previous studies that documented disparities in compensation and academic rank between male and female faculty members did not examine differences in professional activities, such as leadership positions held.

The current study was designed to investigate whether professional activities differ by gender, whether professional productivity - reflected by scientific papers published - continued to vary, and if differences in salary would persist after accounting for professional activities.

In 2007, researchers surveyed more than 3,000 randomly selected investigators from life science departments at the top 50 academic medical centres receiving National Institute of Health (NIH) funding in 2003 or 2004.

The anonymous surveys included questions about respondents’ professional activities - such as leadership positions at their universities, on federal panels or at scientific journals - total and recent number of publications and the journals they appeared in and total compensation.

There was no significant difference in hours worked among associate professors, but women at the assistant professor level worked fewer hours overall, primarily spending less time doing research.

Even after controlling for the differences in academic ranking, research productivity and other personal characteristics, women earned from $6,000 to $15,000 less per year than men of similar levels of accomplishment, says a Mongan Institute release.

“These differences may seem modest,” DesRoches says, “but over a 30-year career, an average female faculty member with a PhD would earn almost $215,000 less than a comparable male.”

“If that deficit were invested in a retirement account earning six percent per year, the difference would grow to almost $700,000 over a career. For department of medicine faculty, that difference could be almost twice as great,” concludes DesRoches.

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