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All Things Unequal, In Pay

Women still earn slightly less than men do in the life sciences, though the difference narrows as both advance in their fields, according to a salary survey conducted by Abbott, Langer & Associates and sponsored by The Scientist and the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Midcareer female scientists in the United States, who have worked for five to nine years since obtaining their PhDs, earn a median income of $55,000 (US), roughly 92% of the $60,000 their male colleagues earn. Wom

By | September 16, 2002

Women still earn slightly less than men do in the life sciences, though the difference narrows as both advance in their fields, according to a salary survey conducted by Abbott, Langer & Associates and sponsored by The Scientist and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Midcareer female scientists in the United States, who have worked for five to nine years since obtaining their PhDs, earn a median income of $55,000 (US), roughly 92% of the $60,000 their male colleagues earn. Women with 14 to 19 years in the profession earn a median of $75,000, 93% of the $81,000 earned by men; those who have worked 25 to 29 years since obtaining their PhDs earn a median of $89,850, 94% of the median of $95,000 for men.

The salary disparity--which many women sense--has prompted massive surveys of academic departments in universities as different as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which led the trend by publishing a study in 1999 (web.mit.edu/fnl/women/women.html), and the equity study by the University of California, Los Angeles. The UCLA study, which was completed in October 2000, shows how challenging institution-wide surveys can be: It took six months for the equity committee to obtain data for the report.

The UCLA study found that men and women received equitable pay within most departments, but it unearthed some differences in the ranking of comparable men and women, and showed an 8.8% difference between pay for female and male members in the Division of Life Sciences. "One of the things that I try to do as dean is to constantly compare faculty salaries and look for equity adjustments," says Frederick Eiserling, UCLA's division dean. "There are some inequities, and when the department chair and I agree, we send it to the chancellor's office and make the equity argument."

In the United Kingdom and Canada, women may suffer greater disparities in their salaries than do those in the United States, though The Scientist salary survey provides just a snapshot, not an authoritative salary analysis. In Britain, the median income for 510 female scientists with PhDs is $37,477--85% of the $44,310 median earnings of 854 men. In Canada, eight female PhDs reported a median of $37,822, about 73.6% of the $51,399 median for 10 male PhDs.

Paula Park can be contacted at ppark@the-scientist.com.

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