Just 30% of US radiology society members are women—and few are in leadership roles

North American radiology societies are suffering from a gender divide, according to recent research that found only 30 percent of society members in the U.S. are women, with a smaller proportion holding leadership positions.

It’s not news that women are outnumbered in imaging, Faisal Khosa, MD, MBA, and co-authors wrote in the American Journal of Roentgenology this month. Khosa, an associate professor in the department of radiology at Vancouver General Hospital, University of British Columbia in Canada, and his colleagues have long been aware of the stats: around 21 percent of practicing radiologists in the U.S. are women, and, while female representation is increasing in some areas of medicine, the ratio of female to male residents entering radiology has remained at a steady 25 percent since the 1970s.

“Although North American medical school classes have been composed of nearly an equal male-to-female ratio for more than one decade, fewer women go on to pursue academics, and women remain significantly underrepresented in senior academic ranks and leadership positions,” the authors wrote in AJR. “In the United States in 2014, only 21 percent of full professors, 15 percent of department chairs and 16 percent of deans were female.”

Those numbers are echoed in professional organizations like the American College of Radiology, where, of the 93 ACR presidents to date, just three have been women. Also, despite female representation on the ACR Board of Chancellors having grown from 9 percent in 2001 to 33 percent in 2015, just one woman has been appointed Chair.

Khosa and his team reviewed radiology society members in the U.S. for more information, noting their leadership positions, gender, academic rank and productivity measurements. They found 2,826 active committee members—but only 920 were women.

Leadership roles were even scarcer, the authors reported. Women held just 195 of 696 available society leadership positions, while men occupied more than 500 of those posts. Men were also more likely to have higher publication numbers and citations of their professional work.

“Across university academic ranks of assistant and associate professor, research productivity metrics were similar between genders,” Khosa et al. said. “But interestingly, female representation decreased with increasing academic rank. A higher proportion of men held a university rank of professor than women, with parity at the levels of assistant and associate professors.”

The authors said their results seem to indicate academic productivity, whether directly or indirectly, could influence promotions to higher society ranks. If more women were interested in excelling in research, it might explain the gender disparity in society leadership.

To really address the problem, though, Khosa and colleagues said, we need to get to the root of it and start enrolling more women in radiology programs and academics.

“Additionally, the notion of increased recognition and academic promotion of faculty members interested in excelling in teaching and clinical education as opposed to research-centered careers is gaining attention,” the authors wrote. “Further studies on how to objectively evaluate faculty members interested in such a career path may help implement this into practice and reduce the disparity shown in this study.”