Despite some progress, gender gap persists in academic medicine

Academic medicine's gender gap is still going strong, with women comprising one in five full-time faculty members, according to research published in the Journal of Women's Health.

Researchers, led by Phyllis A. Carr, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, conducted 44 interviews at 23 randomly-selected medical schools and found that while progress has been made, significant work remains on gender parity in the field. Carr and her team found broad variation across the schools involved in the research, with some interviewees describing an "old-boys club" culture at their institutions and others perceived their schools as environments where women were often considered and hired for high-level positions.

Despite some positive developments regarding women in leadership roles, many of these positions are non-tenured clinical roles rather than more prestigious tenured research tracks. Multiple respondents indicated more leadership positions for women would help promote gender equality in the sector.

One major recurring concern among respondents was the "leaky pipeline" created by problems retaining women in the field, with women often leaving the institution at the assistant professor level. Part of the problem, one anonymous female respondent said, is that while the culture at these institutions is often inviting during recruitment efforts, it does not remain so. "The climate is welcoming to bring people in. Females tend to start at the instructor, assistant professor rank and it is difficult for them to go through the ladder," she said.

Respondents also indicated work-life balance issues continue to disproportionately affect female employees, as well as a perception that women are underpaid compared to their male counterparts.

Gender gaps exist in other sectors of healthcare as well. For example, clinical studies often overlook gender disparities, potentially endangering women's health, according to a 2014 study from the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women's Health & Gender Biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

To learn more:
- here's the study (.pdf)