Research Article| Volume 220, ISSUE 2, P256-261, August 2020

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Gender and compensation among surgical specialties in the Veterans Health Administration

Published:February 27, 2020DOI:


      • Gender, specialty, experience, h-index and location were predictors of salary.
      • Overall, female surgeons had lower salaries compared to male surgeons in the VHA.
      • Within each surgical specialty, there was no significant gender pay gap.
      • Women were underrepresented in higher-paying specialties, such as Orthopedics.



      A gender pay gap has been reported across many professions, including medicine.


      Surgeons employed at complex Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC) nationwide in 2016 were identified. Data on salary, gender, years since medical school graduation, professorship status, h-index, and geographic location were collected.


      Of 1993 surgeons nationwide, 23% were female. On average, female surgeons had significantly lower salaries compared to male surgeons ($268,429 ± 41,339 versus $287,717 ± 45,379, respectively; p < 0.001). Among each surgical specialty, there were no significant differences in salary on univariate analysis. Women were underrepresented in higher paying specialties and more heavily represented in lower paying specialties. On multivariate analysis, gender (p < 0.001), time since medical school graduation (p < 0.001), surgical specialty (p = 0.031), h-index (p < 0.001), and geographic location (p < 0.001) were significant predictors of salary.


      Female gender significantly predicted lower salary among VAMC surgeons, however within each surgical specialty, there was no significant gender pay gap.

      Sentence summary

      Independent predictors of salary included gender, surgical specialty, experience, h-index, and geographic location. Although female surgeons had lower overall salaries compared to male surgeons in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), there were no significant gender differences in salary among each surgical specialty. Pay transparency, unique to the VHA, along with the use of rational and objective criteria to establish and adjust salaries, may play a role in reducing the gender pay gap among VHA surgeons.


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