AHA.15: Female cardiologists earn less than male colleagues

Female cardiologists earned $31,749 less than expected in 2013, according to researchers who analyzed salary data.

If the female cardiologists were male, the analysis suggested they would have made a mean salary of $432,631 based on their productivity and other characteristics. However, the mean salary was $400,162 for female cardiologists and $510,996 for male cardiologists.

The association between salary and work relative value units (RVUs) was similar for both sexes, although the researchers mentioned there was a difference in compensation that was not explained by work RVUs.

Lead researcher Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues, wrote that the $31,749 difference “was not explained by the detailed measures of personal, job, and practice characteristics evaluated in this study.”

Results of the study were presented on Nov. 8 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions and simultaneously published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The current study suggests that although some of the overall difference in salary between male and female cardiologists can be explained by differences in work performed, a substantial difference remains even after detailed measurement of procedural volumes, on-call coverage, and other work activities,” the researchers wrote. “Further, the magnitude of this difference is remarkably constant when analyzed in different ways.”

For this study, practice administrators shared data from 2013 on 2,679 cardiologists from 161 U.S. practices to MedAxiom, a subscription-based service provider to cardiology practices. Of the cardiologists, 2,450 were male and 229 were female.

Although women account for nearly half of medical students in the U.S., the researchers noted that only 21 percent of first-year cardiology fellows training in 2012 and 2013 were women. Further, approximately 12 percent of general cardiologists are women, and the proportions of women in specialties such as interventional cardiology and clinical cardiac electrophysiology are even smaller.

In this sample, 56 percent of female cardiologists and 38.8 percent of male cardiologists were younger than 49 years old, while, 67.3 percent and 73.2 percent, respectively, were white.

Of the female cardiologists, 53.1 percent specialized in general or non-invasive cardiology and 11.4 percent had an interventional subspecialty compared with 28.2 percent and 39.3 percent of male cardiologists, respectively.

Jagsi and colleagues also found 90.9 percent of male cardiologists and 79.9 percent of female cardiologists worked full-time, while the mean number of half-days worked was 387 for women and 406 for men.

The mean number of work RVUs generated was 7,404 for women and 9,497 for men.

Women were less likely to perform procedures such as pacemaker implants and catheterizations and more likely to perform SPECT scans and stress echocardiograms. There was no difference in the male and female cardiologists with regards to performing echocardiograms or treadmill testing.

The researchers mentioned a few limitations, including that the findings may not be generalizable to practices that were not similar to the ones responding to the MedAxiom survey. They also said there may have been unmeasured factors that could have explained and justified the gender differences in pay. In addition, they did not have information on retirement contributions, insurance or other aspects of compensation.