The biomedical research careers of women physicians may be held back because they receive less funding from pharmaceutical manufacturers than men do, according to the author of a new study on gender differences in research support.
Women physicians receive roughly $15,000 a year less in research funding from manufacturers compared with their male counterparts, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.
It also found that female physicians received an average of about $3,600 per doctor less from industry for other types of payments, such as meals and speaker fees.
Overall, the study found that just under a quarter of the $18 million paid to 220,000 physicians by biomedical companies in 2011 went to women. Data for the study came from public databases and was collected by Boston-based data analytics firm Kyruus. Of the 220,000 physicians identified as having financial relationships with industry, 26% were women and 75% were men. Women made up 32% of the overall physician population analyzed in the study.
Receiving lower amounts for research funding can put women physicians at a disadvantage for career advancement in their field, given that the ability to generate such funding can be a factor in promotion, said study author Susannah Rose, director of bioethics research and policy at the Cleveland Clinic. “This is really important for researchers and physicians who are promoted based on their research, their publications, and their status in their field,” Rose said.
Researchers over the past decade have become more reliant upon establishing relationships with the private biomedical industry for funding due to declining government research funding. “Many feel industry is a very important source for innovation,” Rose said. “It seems that women are being systematically excluded from these important industry financial ties and relationships.”
As she noted, however, the study did not determine causes for such disparities. She acknowledged the possibility that women physicians overall might be more inclined to view such financial relationships with industry as unethical.
Previous studies have shown women receive less government research funding than men from the National Institutes of Health. A 2011 study published in the journal Academic Medicine found that women received fewer NIH grant awards than men at all points of their career.