Conference Coverage

Objective compensation systems can eliminate gender pay gap


 

REPORTING FROM ASA ANNUAL MEETING

Innovative compensation systems aimed at achieving fairness, consistency, and transparency in salaries among surgeons in academic medical centers can go a long way to closing the gender pay gap.

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, research showed that a newly adopted compensation system – one not even designed to address gender disparities – boosted the salaries of female surgeons from 46% to 72% of the salaries of their male colleagues. A gender salary gap also narrowed at Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, after a new compensation policy was put into place.

Dr. Kenneth Azarow

The Oregon findings reveal that “gender bias did exist, and a universal compensation plan did assist in leveling the playing field as far as salaries go,” said study coauthor Kenneth S. Azarow, MD, interim chair of surgery at OHSU, in an interview.

The two studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American Surgical Association.

Recent studies have revealed significant gaps in the salaries of female physicians, compared with their male counterparts. The challenge in this kind of study is to fairly compare salaries by adjusting for hours worked, time taken for family obligations, negotiated starting salary, and other factors that play into salary level.

A 2016 analysis of 590 surgeons at 24 medical schools found that men made a mean of $323,000 a year, compared with $270,000 among women. The gap persisted after adjustment for factors like years of experience and publication history at $280,000 (women) and $312,000 (men). The pay gap among 744 surgical subspecialists was even wider at $343,000 (men) versus $267,000 (women). After adjustment, male surgical subspecialists made $329,000, while women made $285,000 (JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176[9]:1294-304).

In 2015, the administration at Oregon Health & Sciences University instituted a school-wide “Faculty First” compensation plan. It aligns faculty pay – based on specialty and academic rank – with 3-year rolling median salaries in the Western region as reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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