Female otolaryngologists earn less money than male otolaryngologists

Female otolaryngologists earn less money for performing similar jobs as male otolaryngologists, and women's increased family responsibilities may reduce opportunities for career advancement, according to an article in the June issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to information in the article, otolaryngology - the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the head and neck - has traditionally been a male-dominated profession, but as the number of women entering medical school has increased, so have the percentages of women in subspecialty surgical careers, like otolaryngology.

Jennifer Rubin Grandis, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues investigated career and lifestyle factors that may distinguish female otolaryngologists from their male peers.

The researchers sent questionnaires to all 502 female members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery who finished their residency training and were practicing. For comparison, the survey also was sent to two male otolaryngologists (for each female survey recipient), who were matched on years since completion of training, geographic region and practice type. The researchers received responses from 673 otolaryngologists (52.6 percent response rate).

"Women were more likely to be divorced or separated and have fewer children," the authors write. They also found that women reduced their work hours when they had more children. When the researchers took into account professional practice hours and hours spent in the operating room per week, type of practice and years since completion of residency, they found that women earned 15 percent to 20 percent less per year than men.

Additionally, "Men relied more on their spouse or partner for household responsibilities and child care, and 34.3 percent of the women (compared with 7.1 percent of the men) spent 21 to 40 hours per week on household management," the authors write.

"Despite the potential obstacles to a surgical career, the number of women entering surgery appears to be increasing, Although women constituted 6.6 percent of practicing otolaryngologists at the time of our study, 14 percent of otolaryngology trainees are women. Changes can be made in the culture of surgery to address these concerns, including implementing more flexible work opportunities such as job sharing, allowing for later starting times in the operating room, and scheduling conferences to avoid early morning and evening hours to optimize family time for working parents."

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