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Gender-Based Salary Disparities: It Pays to Take a Closer Look

Ambati, Balamurali K. MD, PhD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000379
Letters to the Editor

Professor of ophthalmology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah;

Disclosures: None reported.

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To the Editor:

In their recent investigation into gender disparities in early-career physician–researchers’ salaries, Dr. Jagsi and colleagues1 found that male gender was an independent, significant predictor of salary (+$10,921, P < .001), even after adjusting for several factors. Their decisions to focus on a select, homogeneous cohort of early-career academic physicians and to control for demographic characteristics, specialty, institution, productivity, rank, work hours, etc., were well constructed and laudable. However, the authors’ conclusion that gender differences in compensation are “difficult to justify” is premature. The authors do not present data on clinical collections, relative value units, or benefit packages, all of which can be critical elements of total compensation in most academic departments, especially in procedural specialties. In fact, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Labor,2 “Research indicates that women may value nonwage benefits more than men do, and as a result prefer to take a greater portion of their compensation in the form of health insurance and other fringe benefits.” Lastly, the authors do not present data on private foundation grants, fundraising, or philanthropic donations generated by the male and female participants in their study, nor on length of time needed to get independent R01 or similar grant funding, which often affects trajectory of promotion and academic raises. In summary, the authors did not control for many relevant and potentially explanatory variables in physician compensation, and thus, their article may not provide the full picture of the gender-based salary disparity they observed.

Balamurali K. Ambati, MD, PhD, MBA

Professor of ophthalmology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah;

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1. Jagsi R, Griffith KA, Stewart A, Sambuco D, DeCastro R, Ubel PA. Gender differences in salary in a recent cohort of early-career physician–researchers. Acad Med. 2013;88:1689–1699
2. CONSAD Research Corporation. An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women. Washington, DC U.S. Department of Labor January 12, 2009. Accessed April 21, 2014
© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges