3 key statistics about gender disparity in radiology around the world

In recent years, significant progress has been made throughout the United States in the representation of women in healthcare. Radiology, however, remains one of the few medical specialties still dominated by men—a 2016 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, for example, found that 24.7 percent of active radiologists in the country are female. To dive deeper into this gender gap, researchers studied the radiology workforce all over the world, publishing their findings in Academic Radiology.

“As a specialty, diagnostic radiology has many characteristics that should make it desirable to both genders, including the perception of predictable scheduling, ability to work part time, and relatively generous compensation in the United States,” wrote lead author Sarah Wallace Cater, MD, department of radiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues. “Previous authors have theorized that a paucity of female role models, lack of patient contact, averseness to physics and technology, lack of exposure in medical school, and sexual harassment underlie radiology's gender gap. To help further increase understanding of this important issue, it would be prudent to know whether differences exist in other countries, specifically developed versus developing nations.”

These are three key findings from the authors’ research:

1. Globally, one in three radiologists is female.

Using data from societies that covered more than 184,000 radiologists from 26 countries, Cater et al. found that, globally, 33.5 radiologists are female.

Thailand (85 percent), Romania (more than 68 percent) and Spain (more than 50 percent) had the highest percentages of females in these radiology societies. Looking at female representation in the U.S., data from the Radiological Society of North America found that more than 27 percent of its members are female.

2. Globally, more than 48 percent of radiologists aged 35 or under are female.

According to data from 17 different imaging societies, 48.5 percent of radiologists of younger radiologists (aged 35 or under) are female.

“Denmark, Italy, El Salvador and Costa Rica achieved majority female membership among the younger generation of female members, and 93.8 percent of country societies providing data reported female representation of at least one-third among the younger cohort,” the authors wrote.

3. Female representation among leadership boards was more than 50 percent in just two countries.

In El Salvador (71 percent) and Denmark (60 percent), more than half of radiology society board members are female. The lowest percentage was Argentina (more than 9 percent).

Cater and colleagues noted that the gender disparity among society board members in the U.S. is not exactly breaking news to anyone following these trends closely.

“This phenomenon has been well documented in academic medicine in the United States,” the authors wrote. “As previously discussed, women are underrepresented among radiology vice chairs, section chiefs and department chairs. Major journal mastheads have fewer women in editorial roles than would be expected given their representation in academic radiology.”