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Insight & Intelligence™: Feb 25, 2015

Inadequate Progress for Women in Academic Medicine

Findings from the National Faculty Study

Inadequate Progress for Women in Academic Medicine

A new study looks at gender equality and recommends systematic review by medical schools. [©Stefan Schierle/Shuttersock]

    Women have entered academic medicine in significant numbers for almost 4 decades. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) formed the Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) as an official group in August 2009, providing further recognition of the importance of women's academic capital to medical academe. Nonetheless, women have not achieved senior leadership in rank or position compared with men, and there continues to be a gender disparity in pay—controlling for specialty, seniority, hours of work per week, publications, and grants—that has not improved from 1995. Women also leave academic medicine at a higher rate than men do and bear a greater responsibility for child care and family responsibilities. There is a need to understand the multiple factors associated with this lack of advancement of women and to investigate the environment in which they work. One aspect of the institutional environment, referred to as the academic climate, is defined as the formal and informal institutional attitudes and programs to promote gender equity in the workplace. Although a recent survey of US and Canadian medical school deans suggested that the culture for women had improved, other studies have found that the climate in academic medicine fails to support women. We sought to explore the opinions of individuals who have a leadership role to address the climate for women, including institutional members of the AAMC GWIMS. We conducted qualitative interviews to explore the gender climate (i.e., support for women to achieve gender parity) for women in academic medicine as perceived by members of GWIMS and the Group on Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) of the AAMC as senior leaders with longevity at their medical schools with a unique perspective over time.


    The final sample comprised 44 individuals representing 23 schools, as 1 institution declined participation. We interviewed 22 GWIMS, 20 GDI representatives, and 2 senior faculty, who were identified and approached for participation by referral sampling. GWIMS representatives were all female, with 18 (82%) professors and 4 associate professors. The mean age of GWIMS participants was 58 years; on average, each had at been at her institution for 19 years. Eighteen (82%) of the GWIMS informants identified as Caucasian, 2 (9%) as Asian, and 2 (9%) as African American. Half the GDI informants were men; half, women, with 13 (65%) professors, 6 (30%) associate professors, and 1 (5%) assistant professor. The mean age of the GDI representatives was 55 years; on average, they had been at their institutions for 18 years. Four (20%) self-identified as Caucasian, 2 (10%) as Asian, 10 (50%) as African American, and 4 (20%) as Hispanic. These faculty members were in senior leadership positions (associate deans or deans, chairs, a deputy provost, a vice chancellor. Five faculty members explicitly described their active role in the promotion and tenure committee at their institutions).

    We identified five themes from the qualitative responses on gender climate.

    To see more on these themes and to read the full article, CLICK HERE.

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