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Study evaluates gender disparities in rank and tenure among medical school faculty

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Researchers from six institutions evaluated more than 50 years of data from U.S. medical schools to identify longitudinal trends in gender equality in rank and tenure.

The study, published last month in Academic Medicine, revealed large historical changes in medical school expansion, medical education and economics have shifted national gender curves at all academic ranks. However, additional changes remain necessary to achieve gender equity. 

Using data primarily from the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Faculty Roster, this retrospective study showed that the percentage of females in different ranks and tenure statuses increased at consistent rates for long periods of time. At certain times throughout the 54 years studied, the rates changed, consistent with the timing of large-scale changes in medical education such as expansion of medical centers, changing financial burdens and the development of the medical educator promotional track. Despite these nationwide changes, however, current trends do not predict achieving gender parity for four decades in some ranks, according to the study.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that females are an underrepresented group in academic medicine,” said Adam M. Franks, M.D., lead author and professor of family and community health at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. “Knowing that and being able to see exactly to what extent they are underrepresented are two separate things. It is not until we shine the light of inspection on issues like this that significant change is motivated.”

This study is the first of a three-part series for the research team, composed of faculty from medical schools at Eastern Virginia University, Florida International University, Georgetown University, Marshall University, St. Louis University and the University of Wisconsin. After understanding the history of gender disparity as well as the nature and magnitude of changes required to drive improvements thus far, the researchers will create a metric to rank institutions based on female promotion rates. This rating system will then allow grouping of schools into clusters with high and low gender parity. By studying the similarities and differences of female-friendly policies within and between these two groups, they hope to discover best practice policies that drive a culture that supports female faculty.

Franks currently serves on the AAMC Council of Faculty and Academic Societies alongside his fellow researchers on the study.

To view the article in its entirety, visit https://doi.org/10.1097/acm.0000000000004706.

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Media Contact: Sheanna M. Spence, Marshall Health/Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, 304-691-1639


Date Posted: Monday, July 25, 2022