3 key takeaways from a survey on diversity, fair treatment among radiology professionals

Historically, radiology has been unable to recruit women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) as well as other healthcare specialties. Why is this the case? How can that trend be reversed?

A team of researchers developed a survey to learn more about this ongoing situation, sending it to American College of Radiology (ACR) members in early 2018. The survey was completed by 461 ACR members, good for a response rate of 51.2%. The group included both radiologists and radiation oncologists. While 51% of respondents identified as women, 9.5% were black, Hispanic or American Indian/Alaska Native. The mean age was 40.2 years old. The team shared its findings in a new study published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“Discovering how physicians perceive key attributes of their work environments and professional relationships, and how such perceptions may differ among women and URMs, is critically important for identifying barriers to increasing diversity in our professions,” wrote Pari V. Pandharipande, MD, MPH, department of radiology as Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues.

These are three key takeaways from the group’s findings:

1. Women, underrepresented minorities were more likely to report unfair or disrespectful treatment

While more than half of all women said they had been “treated unfairly or with disrespect” in the last year due to their gender, just 5.4% of men indicated they had experienced similar treatment. And 23.9% of women said they had been treated that way within the last year due to their age, compared to just 11.3% of men.

Likewise, 27.9% of URMs said they had been “treated unfairly or with disrespect” due to their race or ethnicity compared to 2.6% of white non-Hispanic respondents. URMs and white non-Hispanic respondents, however, did have similar responses when it came to if the thought their workplace fostered “a culture of respect for all people.”

2. Underrepresented minorities see more of an issue with the availability of career advancement opportunities

While 31.8% of URMs believe “opportunities for leadership and career advancement [were] less available to URM physicians than other physicians,” 13.3% of white non-Hispanic respondents said this was the case. URMs and white non-Hispanic respondents did seem to be on the same page when it came to if they view compensation as fair or not.

3. No regrets? Respondents would recommend their profession to others, with few exceptions

“We did not detect a significant difference when comparing women and men in whether they would recommend their profession to medical students,” the authors wrote.

Also, 100% of URMs would recommend their profession to medical students. This is similar to the percentage of white non-Hispanic (95.8%), Asian/Asian American non-Hispanic (95.7%) and multiracial non-Hispanic (94.1%) respondents who would recommend their profession.

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Overall, the authors noted, the study’s results “suggest that unfair or disrespectful treatment of women and URMs is prevalent despite workplace efforts to create environments that discourage such treatment.” This emphasizes the importance of “every individual” stepping up and working to make a difference, the team added, and professionals treated unfairly or with a lack of respect “should be empowered to speak out against it.”

“Our results suggest that workplace culture could represent a primary barrier to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of these individuals,” Pandharipande et al. concluded. “The formulation of strategies to identify and address sources of this problem, at granular, local levels, should represent a top priority in our professions. Such efforts are likely to represent a critical step toward reducing barriers to building a diverse physician workforce in the years to come.”