(Reuters Health) - Women in pediatrics still earn less than men even with similar levels of experience and even after accounting for the disproportionate amount of time they devote to unpaid work at home, two new studies suggest.
Overall, U.S. pediatricians had average annual income of $189,804, one study based on a 2016 survey of about 1,200 pediatricians found. Women earned about 76% of what men earned, or about $51,000 a year less on average.
Once researchers accounted for differences in work hours, specialty, and a range of work-family characteristics like caregiving duties, women still earned 94% of what men did.
“While these findings are not surprising and reinforce the reality of gender differences in household labor responsibility versus salary generation expectations based on sex, they also demonstrate that a 6% wage gap persists even after accounting for all of these factors,” said Anita Raj, author of an editorial accompanying the studies and director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego.
“This remaining gap may be attributable to ongoing gender discrimination in the workplace,” Raj said by email.
Pediatrics includes the highest percentage of women among all of the various specialties in medicine, researchers note in the journal Pediatrics. About 6 in 10 practicing pediatricians and 7 in 10 graduating pediatrics residents are women, the study team notes.
Female-dominated professions tend to have lower earnings than male-dominated professions, across a wide variety of careers beyond just medicine. While some previous research has found this to be true for pediatricians who provide primary care to kids, studies to date haven’t offered a clear picture of what happens for pediatric subspecialties that require advanced training and skills.
The current study focused on general pediatrics as well as subspecialties like neonatology, cardiology, critical care, emergency medicine, gastroenterology and hematology. Even in specialties, the gender gap in pay persisted.
“Women still tend to earn less than men while spending more time than men on household responsibilities,” said Dr. Amy Starmer, a co-author of the wage study and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.
“While it remains unknown whether the knowledge of these new data might affect career decisions for physicians, it is clear that future efforts will need to advocate for policies and programs that aim to mitigate these disparities,” Starmer said by email.
A separate study in Pediatrics looked at one factor that can impact earnings - the amount of time away from work doctors devote to family life, caregiving, and household chores.
Women in pediatrics were more likely than male pediatricians to report having primary responsibility for household tasks like cleaning, cooking, and routine child care, the analysis of results from a 2015 survey of about 1,300 pediatricians found.
Women were less satisfied with their share of responsibilities, and few women reported feeling successful at achieving balance between their duties at home and at work.
Combined, the pay gap and disparities in responsibilities outside of medicine make it harder to keep women in medicine and may also contribute to negative outcomes for patients, Starmer said.
“Work-life conflicts and income disparities have been demonstrated to be associated with negative outcomes including professional burnout and career dissatisfaction,” Starmer said. “Burnout and career dissatisfaction in physicians are in turn associated with adverse patient safety and quality outcomes for patients.”