A Structured Compensation Plan Improves But Does Not Erase the Sex Pay Gap in Surgery

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Abstract

Objective:

The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between the sex pay gap in a large academic department of surgery and a recently instituted structured compensation plan.

Summary of Background Data:

A recent large study found that after controlling for measures of academic and clinical productivity, male physicians earned nearly $20,000 more annually than female physicians. Increased salary transparency has been proposed as a method to reduce this disparity.

Methods:

A new structured compensation plan was developed to improve transparency of compensation and financial viability of each division. The total compensations of each faculty member before and after the new compensation plan were calculated. Salaries were compared with the Association of Academic Medical Colleges (AAMC) median value based on specialty, region, academic rank, stratified by sex and compared. Work relative value units (wRVUs) were calculated for each faculty member during the entire study period, stratified by sex and compared.

Results:

Among 44 eligible surgeons (33 men and 11 women), a sex pay gap existed with male surgeon salaries significantly higher than female surgeon salaries [56% (8 to 213) vs 26% (1 to 64); P < 0.00001] despite similar RVU production (men 8725 ± 831 vs women 7818 ± 911, P = 0.454). The new compensation plan did not significantly change male surgeon salaries [56% (8 to 213) vs 58% (26 to 159); P = 0.552] but did significantly increase the salaries of female surgeons [26% (1 to 64) vs 42% (10 to 80); P = 0.026].

Conclusion:

A structured compensation plan can improve the sex pay gap in a short period of time. More transparency in surgical compensation plans is essential to understand the most equitable way to compensate all surgeons.

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