Representation of women among faculty at medical schools improves, but work is still needed

January 25, 2023
3 minutes of reading


Disclosures: Yoo does not report any relevant financial disclosures. Consult the study for the relevant financial disclosures of all other authors.

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The representation of women on medical school faculty improved between 1990 and 2019, according to study results published in open JAMA network.

However, only modest increases occurred for black faculty representation, and Hispanic faculty representation declined, the researchers noted.

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“My colleagues and I conducted a previous study first looking at representation across different medical school departments and we saw an increasing trend among underrepresented groups such as black and Hispanic professors,” he said. Alexandre Yoo, MD, neurologist in the department of neurology and division of sleep medicine at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Healio said. “We saw substantial variation across departments and it occurred to us that there was probably significant variability across institutions. We haven’t made much headway in understanding which resources and strategies are most important in recruiting and retaining underrepresented faculty. We thought an important first step would be to identify the extent of success in medical schools and show what factors seemed to be associated with that success.”

faculty evaluation

Yoo and colleagues gathered data on gender, race, and ethnicity from rosters of faculty at US allopathic medical schools who participated in the Association of American Medical Colleges’ College Administrative Management Online User System (AAMC) between 1990 and 2019.

The researchers used decennial census data for the years 1990, 2000, and 2010 and intercensal estimates for all other years between 1990 and 2019.

Trends and variability in the representation quotient served as the main results.

Representation quotients

The results showed that the number of AAMC member institutions increased from 121 (72,076 professors) in 1990 to 144 (184,577 professors) in 2019, and the median representation quotient of female professors increased from 0.42 (interquartile range [IQR]0.37-0.46) to 0.8 (IQR, 0.74-0.89).

The researchers observed an increase in the institutional distribution of the proportion of female professors between 1990 (IQR, 18.7-23.9) and 2019 (IQR, 38.3-45). They observed the same for underrepresented minorities in 1990 (IQR, 2.8-5.6) and 2019 (IQR, 6.4-11.1).

Furthermore, only 14.9% of 121 institutions exceeded the representation quotient for women of 0.5 in 1990, compared to all institutions that exceeded it in 2019.

However, only 7.6% of institutions achieved representation quotients of 1 or more for female faculty. The median absolute change in representation quotient for female faculty was 0.37 (IQR, 0.29-0.43).

Results also showed associations between high county-based representation quotient for women in 2019 and urban campus environment (0.82; IQR, 0.75-0.9; P = 0.04), western US region (0.88; IQR, 0.81-0.98; P = 0.005) and high representation quotient for women in 1990 (0.85; IQR, 0.74-0.96; P = 0.01).

“There was little difference in the metrics for women, which makes sense as the proportion of women residing in a given county is much more likely to be stable and have much less variation between counties compared to underrepresented groups,” Yoo said. .

The researchers also observed a slight increase in the median representation quotient of black faculty from 0.1 (IQR, 0.06-0.22) to 0.22 (IQR, 0.14-0.41) and a mean decrease in the Hispanic faculty representation quotient from 0.44 (IQR, 0.19-1.22) to 0.34 (IQR, 0.23-0.62) between 1990 and 2019.

“We tried to get an idea of ​​which institutional characteristics might be associated with a high or low representation quotient. What stood out was that the institutions with the best US news and world report ranking appeared associated with a low representation quotient,” said Yoo. “This was counterintuitive because these institutions tend to have larger faculty rosters, such as more faculty mentors and greater funding. When we looked a little further, we found that the confounding variable was county diversity.”

These medical schools tended to be in highly diverse cities and may have low representation ratios because changes in county demographics were far outpacing changes at the faculty level, Yoo continued.

“This emphasizes that institutions may face unique challenges in achieving their representation goals and may need to develop recruitment and retention strategies with these factors in mind,” he said.

looking ahead

There’s still a lot of work to be done, Yoo told Healio.

“Equal representation in the medical workforce as a whole is a critical piece to the problem of health inequalities. Prioritizing this goal in academic medicine can accelerate our understanding of the problem and therefore facilitate the formation of holistic strategies to deal with the problem,” he said.

As far as next steps, working out the ‘why’ and ‘when’ is needed, Yoo continued.

“For example, it would be useful to identify key moments in training and early careers when women and individuals from underrepresented groups are diverted from pursuing a career in academic medicine,” he said. “[These] The data can provide strategic information for academic leadership, which, according to our findings, is necessary.”

For more informations:

Alexander Yoo, MD, can be reached at [email protected]

Representation of women among faculty at medical schools improves, but work is still needed

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