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Women In Academic Medicine: ‘Cultural Barriers’ To Leadership

Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School (SBAmin, Wikimedia Commons)

Among the Lords of Longwood — my term for the rulers of the great Boston medical-industrial complex — there are certainly more women than there used to be, especially in high hospital positions.

But a piece just up on the American Medical Association’s amednews.com reports that among the leaders of academic medicine nationwide, major gender gaps persist.

For the past decade, women have made up about 50% of medical students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Meanwhile, the average medical school has 43 female full professors compared with 192 male full professors, said Linda Pololi, MD, lead study author and senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

‘Medical schools have failed to create an environment where women feel fully accepted and supported to succeed.’

“Those numbers are still absolutely shocking, and without a good explanation,” she said.

To gain insight into the cultural barriers women face in academic medicine, researchers surveyed 4,578 full-time faculty at 26 U.S. medical schools. They found that women reported a lower sense of belonging and support and were more pessimistic about gender equity and their chances for advancement compared with men. Women also were less likely to believe that their institutions were family-friendly or to see their values as aligning with the institutions.

The average medical school has 43 female full professors and 192 male full professors. Continue reading