Women occupy just 14% of leadership roles in academic radiology

Female radiologists continue to be underrepresented in academic and leadership roles compared to their male counterparts, researchers reported this month in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

“Despite equal matriculation of women and men in medical school, the gender distribution remains uneven across different medical specialties,” first author Saba Moghimi, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and co-authors wrote, noting women represent just a quarter of today’s radiology residents. “These differences manifest across subspecialties in academic medicine and even in diagnostic radiology.”

Moghimi and colleagues said past research has attempted to identify the etiology of this gender gap, resulting in our understanding that women are less likely to pursue surgical subspecialties if they lack strong female mentors in the field. We also know they’re more likely than men to specialize in areas like breast imaging and less likely to seek careers in interventional radiology. Still, the authors wrote, our understanding of gender representation in nuclear medicine remains limited.

For their work, Moghimi’s team pulled data from the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database and Canadian Resident Matching Service to create a comprehensive database of faculty members in nuclear medicine in the U.S. and Canada. They ultimately used a sample of 237 radiologists whose academic ranks and performance—as measured by a physician’s h-index, number of publications, number of citations and years of active research—were analyzed.

Of the faculty members involved, 17 percent were women, Moghimi et al. reported. Fifteen percent of those were professors, 17 percent were associate professors and 67 percent were assistant professors.

The numbers stood in contrast to those of male specialists, who were 38 percent assistant professors, 27 percent associate professors and 35 percent professors. Women were also less frequently represented in higher academic ranks, and just 14 percent of women held leadership positions compared to 86 percent of men. There were no differences in academic performance between the genders.

“The results of our study showed that women were consistently underrepresented in academia, with fewer women in senior positions than in junior faculty track positions,” the authors wrote. “This distribution may be suggestive of a trend toward more equal representation of genders as more women take on faculty positions and work toward senior positions.”

Still, they said, the discrepancy between sexes remains significant and calls for new strategies to promote diversity and leadership in academic radiology, including counseling and equalizing the pay scale between male and female physicians.

“Study of gender representation and academic productivity has the potential to shed light on the reasons for the gender discrepancy in radiology,” Moghimi et al. said. “In addition, understanding the differences in female representation across subspecialties in radiology may help in devising strategies to promote female participation and representation in academia.

“As more women achieve high ranks in academia and leadership positions, a more equal representation of male and female colleagues in radiology can become a reality."