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Gender Pay Gap Persists in Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility

A gender gap in compensation has again been identified in the subspecialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, where women make substantially less than their male colleagues despite spending as many hours a week seeing patients, a new cross-sectional, Web-based survey indicates.

“Women make up half of all students entering medical school, and in 2016, 82% of the students who matched into Ob/Gyn were female,” senior author Malgorzata Skaznik-Wikiel, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, and colleagues observe.

Yet, “Our study finds that in both private and academic settings, female gender continues to be associated with an income gap of $67,000-$85,000 per year less than their male colleagues,” the investigators report.

The study was recently published online in Fertility and Sterility.

The web-based survey was sent out to board-certified and board-eligible members of the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI).

Respondents were given a range of salaries from which to choose, from a low of $50,000 to a high of over $600,000 a year. They were also asked about annual bonuses, from a range of $0 to $100,000 a year or more.

“A total of 215 members responded to our survey,” the researchers note, “and in all, 95% of respondents were SREI members, with 49% identifying [as] female gender.”

Women Earn $67K Per Year Less Than Men in Same Specialty

Survey results revealed that significantly fewer women were in private practice than men (45% vs 64%; P = .008), as Skaznik-Wikiel points out in a press release from her institution.

The number of days worked per week differed by gender.

Significantly more women worked less than 5 days a week, at 17%, than men, at 6.7% (= .014).

More women worked 5 days a week, at 47%, compared with 40% of men.

But women were less likely to work more than 5 days a week, at 5.3%, compared with 16% for men.

However, as the researchers emphasize, no significant difference was seen between men and women in the number of hours spent seeing patients per week or time spent on research or other academic activities.

“The mean total income across all respondents was $352,000 ($330,300-$376,000),” the investigators note, “with women over-represented in the lower end of the distribution and men in the upper end,” they add.

And even adjusted for the number of years in practice, along with whether or not women were in private practice, “women earned $67K less than men ($314,000 vs $381,000; P = .005) — on average, 82% of their male counterparts’ income,” they state.

“The findings of our study support our hypothesis that the gender gap in salary continues into the subspecialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility,” they conclude.

Discrepancy Explained?

The researchers do acknowledge that more men who responded to the survey were over the age of 50 years, at 76%, compared with only 31% of female respondents.

Furthermore, fewer women, at 28%, reported being in practice for over 20 years compared with 67% of men.

However, the salary gap observed between men and women remained significant even when investigators accounted for the number of years in practice, they note.

Other explanations for the salary gap might include the possibility that women are more likely to take personal leave, such as maternity leave, from practice, which could affect their income.

Men are also more likely to change jobs than women and the gender difference in pay may simply reflect the fact that men may be benefitting from better pay packages organizations often offer to attract new recruits.

“There is some evidence that men switch jobs more often than women and sometimes new jobs will pay more to attract new employees,” Skaznik-Wikiel says.

She also said women are often reluctant to negotiate hard over salary for fear of being seen as overly aggressive, traits many do not associate with men who do the same thing.

“The first step in addressing the gender gap is acknowledging it exists,” she adds.

Next, she recommends physicians have an “open discussion” about income, salary negotiations and implementation of academic institutional and private practice policies that leave room to offer women less money than men.

“Salaries, raises, and bonuses should be transparent,” Skaznik-Wikiel also recommends.

“And women need to step into the mentorship role now more than ever. An opportunity exists for practitioners in the field of obstetrics and gynecology and its subspecialties to lead by example in establishing new transparent norms and better policies that create an environment of equity in pay,” she concludes.

The authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Fertil and Steril. Published online March 25, 2019. Abstract

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