Gender diversity matters. According to research from more than 350 global public companies by McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were more likely to have financial returns above the national median. In the United States, the correlation between gender diversity and improved revenue performance is strongest once women constitute at least 22 percent of a senior executive team. 1 Gender diversity within an organization can increase revenue by improving recruiting methods, customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision making. Increasing gender diversity in radiology, a specialty in which women are currently grossly underrepresented, offers an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in the healthcare marketplace.
As global changes have shifted healthcare to a consumer-driven model, overwhelmingly comprised of female consumers, gender diversity in radiology organizations is of paramount importance. Leveraging the insight of women in radiology can improve the relationship of women consumers with radiology service providers. Women healthcare consumers now make the majority of healthcare decisions in this country, with nearly all women making healthcare decisions for themselves and 59 percent making decisions for others. Of working women with children under the age of 18, an overwhelming 94 percent make healthcare decisions for themselves and others. 2
Women healthcare consumers value clear communication, affordable preventive care and friendly, informative customer service. Women’s perspectives at all levels in radiology including staff, administrators, trainees and radiologists is integral in improving this influential consumer relationship. Strengthening the relationship with women healthcare consumers can improve overall population health and well-being. Efforts to improve gender diversity by recruiting and retaining qualified women at all levels in radiology are imperative.
As a specialty, radiology continues to struggle to attract, retain and promote women at all levels. While the number of women graduating from medical school now approaches that of men, a significantly smaller proportion of women medical students (27 percent in 2017) choose radiology as a career path. 3 This percentage of women applying for radiology residency has remained stagnant for over a decade. According to a 2009 study by the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR), factors influencing women medical students’ decision whether or not to pursue radiology as a career may include limited availability of women role models, lack of mentorship and limited exposure to radiology early in medical school (J Am Coll Radiol. 2009 Apr;6(4):246-53).
As in corporate America, women radiologists continue to fall behind their male counterparts early in their careers. This gender gap persists and further widens at senior level leadership positions. In radiology, this disparity is exacerbated by the paucity of women medical students choosing to pursue radiology as a specialty. According to a 2015 JACR study, of all practicing radiologists, approximately 22 percent are women, with even fewer women radiologists in private practice. Women hold only 7 percent of all radiology leadership positions in both private and academic sectors (J Am Coll Radiol. 2015 Feb;12(2):155-7).
Overall, according to a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporations developed by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org, women have less access to opportunities for career development than men and less access to senior leaders, mentors and networking opportunities. 4 To improve gender diversity, radiology organizations must address current issues with recruitment, retention and promotion to senior leadership positions. Without efforts at the national and institutional level to improve gender diversity, the gender disparity in radiology will persist.
Organizations Making a Difference
National radiology organizations have recognized the positive impact of gender diversity and significant efforts are being made to increase diversity and improve the status of women in radiology. Organizations including the American Association for Women in Radiology (AAWR), the