Women Face Barriers To Equality in Medicine

Salaries, Promotion Rates Differ Between the Sexes, Despite Similar Productivity

A large disparity exists between the salaries and promotion rates of men and women who serve as faculty in internal medicine departments around the country, according to a study published yesterday by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Boston University School of Medicine.

The survey, which was published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, indicated that while women perform similar professional tasks and reach similar levels of productivity as their male co-workers, they have lower academic rankings and receive less annual compensation.

The researchers explored the status, academic productivity and monetary compensation of more than 1,600 full-time male and female physicians in cardiology, rheumatology and general medicine representing more than 100 major U.S. teaching hospitals.

Status was measured by academic rank and tenure, while academic productivity was defined according to research grants awarded, abstracts accepted and papers published in reference journals.

Despite the large number of women in academic medicine, it was found that only 33 percent of the women surveyed had achieved the rank of full or associate professor, compared with 47 percent of their male counterparts. While men receive an average of $79,600 in yearly salary, women only receive $72,000.


The results of this investigation come as no surprise to many female doctors and professionals. According to Dr. Leah J. Dickstein, a psychiatrist and president of the American Medical Women's Association, such unfair treatment of women is widespread.

Of more than 120 deans of U.S. medical schools, Dickstein said in an interview this week, only four are women. Women faculty receive fewer promotions to associate professorships, and there are no female department chairs in internal medicine, the speciality most women choose to enter, according to Dickstein.

The psychiatrist attributed the polarization between the sexes in medicine to two causes: the tendency of women to fail to act aggressively and assertively, and the failure of men in power to assist and accommodate the women in their climb to the top.

"Women have a need to please too much, so we don't ask for favors that we think are just for us," Dickstein said. "Women join faculties and don't get mentored to get into research early enough. Women need powerful men to help them get the powerful positions."

According to co-author Mark A. Moskowitz, who is a professor of medicine and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine, the original aim of the investigation was to examine the relative success of those practicing internal medicine.

"I thought that at certain times it is appropriate to assess how far women have come to determine what might be helpful to help women succeed more in the workplace," said Dr. Phyllis L. Carr '73, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and leader of the investigation.

"The first step is the recognition that the problem exists," said Moskowitz. "The medical school deans on down need to confront this and identify ways to make sure that salaries are more comparable and that women are more involved in the promotion process."

Dickstein is hopeful, but wary, of the future of women in academic medicine. "I think things are starting to change," she said. "But it's got a long way to go."