Feature

Studies highlight work-life imbalance, wage gap for female pediatricians

Amy Starmer
Amy J. Starmer

Two studies published recently in Pediatrics highlighted female pediatricians’ work-life imbalance and unequal pay compared with their male peers.

Amy J. Starmer, MD, MPH, FAAP, pediatrician and director of primary care quality improvement at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues previously examined 2013 survey data from the Pediatrician Life and Career Experience (PLACES) study. In a 2016 study, they reported that 83% of pediatricians reported satisfaction with their career, and 71% said they were satisfied with their life. However, only 43% reported appropriate work-life balance, and nearly one-third reported burnout.

These new studies, Starmer said, further assess the household responsibilities that add to work-life conflicts and professional burnout for pediatricians.

“There are many things that might collectively contribute to women reporting primary responsibility for household tasks, such as number of hours worked, the work status of one’s spouse, the number of children in the family or income,” she told Infectious Diseases in Children. “However, in our study, even when taking all these potential factors into account, female pediatricians were still more likely to report primary responsibility for the vast majority of household tasks.”

Starmer and colleagues examined 2015 survey data from the PLACES study to examine work-life balance and household responsibilities of early-career pediatricians.

Infographic about work-life balance among female pediatricians 

More than 1,200 pediatricians completed the survey. Women were significantly more likely to report primary responsibility for 13 of 16 household duties included in the survey, including cleaning, cooking and child care (P < .001). The differences between female and male pediatricians remained significant, except for budget management, after the researchers controlled for part-time work status and spouse or partner work status.

According to the researchers, female pediatricians were less likely than their male counterparts to report being completely or very satisfied with their share of home responsibilities, 52% to 62% (P = .01), and were less likely to report being very successful at balancing their job and personal life (15% vs. 19%; P = .05).

Through open-ended responses, female pediatricians suggested that reduced work hours, outsourcing household-related work and adjusting personal responsibilities and relationships could improve work-life balance.

“While many programs for pediatricians focus on improving skills for workplace setting negotiation and professional career development, it is important to consider whether focused attention on programs that also develop skills to negotiate the balance of responsibilities in the home environment may help ameliorate the gender discrepancy we observed in work-life balance satisfaction,” Starmer said.

Gender pay gap

In a second study, Starmer and colleagues noted that 60% of practicing pediatricians and 70% of graduating pediatric residents are female. Pediatricians, they wrote, have the highest percentage of women physicians compared with specialties like child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric medicine, internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology.

However, the researchers wrote, some studies demonstrate a significant gap in pay between male and female pediatricians, with some suggesting a gap as large as $80,000 or more.

“While prior studies of physicians have indicated that women earn less than men, these studies have been limited by the extent to which they were able to consider a comprehensive set of characteristics contributing to physician salary difference,” Starmer said. “In particular, work-life balance issues and personal choices made in careers have been previously understudied. We had the opportunity to review a wide number of labor force, job-specific and work-family characteristics to better understand how each of these factors contribute to observed gender differences in pay.”

To better understand the differences between pay for male and female pediatricians, Starmer and colleagues further assessed the 2016 PLACES study data and focused on early- and mid-career pediatricians in a longitudinal study.

Nearly 1,000 general pediatricians, pediatric hospitalists or pediatric subspecialty providers responded to the survey. The average income reported by pediatricians was $189,804 per year. According to the researchers, before making any adjustments for personal and professional characteristics, female pediatricians earned approximately 76% of what men earned, or $51,000 less per year.

Photo of a frustrated woman doctor in a white coat with a stethoscope working on her laptop 
Source: Adobe Stock

The differences in pay decreased once Starmer and colleagues adjusted for demographics, work hours and specialty, but female pediatricians still only earned 87% of what their male colleagues earned, or about $26,000 less per year. This gap closed further after additional adjustments were made for a comprehensive set of labor force, physicians’ specific jobs and work-family characteristics. Despite the gap closing, women still made about $8,000 less per year compared with male colleagues.

Starmer said that those in the pediatric specialty are “increasingly aware of the need to address the issue of gender equity in leadership and earnings.”

“While some institutions are working toward the implantation of policies focused on salary corrections and annual monitoring of salaries, broader efforts along these lines are needed to reform the structure and remuneration practices in a more comprehensive and widespread manner,” Starmer said. – by Katherine Bortz

References:

Starmer AJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2016;doi:10.1542/peds.2015-3183.

Starmer AJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2019;doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2926.

Frinter MP, et al. Pediatrics. 2019;doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3955.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

Amy Starmer
Amy J. Starmer

Two studies published recently in Pediatrics highlighted female pediatricians’ work-life imbalance and unequal pay compared with their male peers.

Amy J. Starmer, MD, MPH, FAAP, pediatrician and director of primary care quality improvement at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues previously examined 2013 survey data from the Pediatrician Life and Career Experience (PLACES) study. In a 2016 study, they reported that 83% of pediatricians reported satisfaction with their career, and 71% said they were satisfied with their life. However, only 43% reported appropriate work-life balance, and nearly one-third reported burnout.

These new studies, Starmer said, further assess the household responsibilities that add to work-life conflicts and professional burnout for pediatricians.

“There are many things that might collectively contribute to women reporting primary responsibility for household tasks, such as number of hours worked, the work status of one’s spouse, the number of children in the family or income,” she told Infectious Diseases in Children. “However, in our study, even when taking all these potential factors into account, female pediatricians were still more likely to report primary responsibility for the vast majority of household tasks.”

Starmer and colleagues examined 2015 survey data from the PLACES study to examine work-life balance and household responsibilities of early-career pediatricians.

Infographic about work-life balance among female pediatricians 

More than 1,200 pediatricians completed the survey. Women were significantly more likely to report primary responsibility for 13 of 16 household duties included in the survey, including cleaning, cooking and child care (P < .001). The differences between female and male pediatricians remained significant, except for budget management, after the researchers controlled for part-time work status and spouse or partner work status.

According to the researchers, female pediatricians were less likely than their male counterparts to report being completely or very satisfied with their share of home responsibilities, 52% to 62% (P = .01), and were less likely to report being very successful at balancing their job and personal life (15% vs. 19%; P = .05).

Through open-ended responses, female pediatricians suggested that reduced work hours, outsourcing household-related work and adjusting personal responsibilities and relationships could improve work-life balance.

“While many programs for pediatricians focus on improving skills for workplace setting negotiation and professional career development, it is important to consider whether focused attention on programs that also develop skills to negotiate the balance of responsibilities in the home environment may help ameliorate the gender discrepancy we observed in work-life balance satisfaction,” Starmer said.

Gender pay gap

In a second study, Starmer and colleagues noted that 60% of practicing pediatricians and 70% of graduating pediatric residents are female. Pediatricians, they wrote, have the highest percentage of women physicians compared with specialties like child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric medicine, internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology.

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However, the researchers wrote, some studies demonstrate a significant gap in pay between male and female pediatricians, with some suggesting a gap as large as $80,000 or more.

“While prior studies of physicians have indicated that women earn less than men, these studies have been limited by the extent to which they were able to consider a comprehensive set of characteristics contributing to physician salary difference,” Starmer said. “In particular, work-life balance issues and personal choices made in careers have been previously understudied. We had the opportunity to review a wide number of labor force, job-specific and work-family characteristics to better understand how each of these factors contribute to observed gender differences in pay.”

To better understand the differences between pay for male and female pediatricians, Starmer and colleagues further assessed the 2016 PLACES study data and focused on early- and mid-career pediatricians in a longitudinal study.

Nearly 1,000 general pediatricians, pediatric hospitalists or pediatric subspecialty providers responded to the survey. The average income reported by pediatricians was $189,804 per year. According to the researchers, before making any adjustments for personal and professional characteristics, female pediatricians earned approximately 76% of what men earned, or $51,000 less per year.

Photo of a frustrated woman doctor in a white coat with a stethoscope working on her laptop 
Source: Adobe Stock

The differences in pay decreased once Starmer and colleagues adjusted for demographics, work hours and specialty, but female pediatricians still only earned 87% of what their male colleagues earned, or about $26,000 less per year. This gap closed further after additional adjustments were made for a comprehensive set of labor force, physicians’ specific jobs and work-family characteristics. Despite the gap closing, women still made about $8,000 less per year compared with male colleagues.

Starmer said that those in the pediatric specialty are “increasingly aware of the need to address the issue of gender equity in leadership and earnings.”

“While some institutions are working toward the implantation of policies focused on salary corrections and annual monitoring of salaries, broader efforts along these lines are needed to reform the structure and remuneration practices in a more comprehensive and widespread manner,” Starmer said. – by Katherine Bortz

References:

Starmer AJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2016;doi:10.1542/peds.2015-3183.

Starmer AJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2019;doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2926.

Frinter MP, et al. Pediatrics. 2019;doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3955.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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