A November 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine building off of a landmark 2000 report that demonstrated that women were less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts. In the intervening years, women have come to represent 50% of medical school students and so the study’s authors asked: have things changed? We were disappointed but unsurprised to find that the answer is no: the gendered gap in promotion “did not diminish over time and were not smaller in the later cohorts than in the earlier cohorts.”

In fact, the gender gap in promotion to full professor has widened since the first study: women who graduated between 1979 and 1997, were 21% less likely to be promoted from associate professor to full professor than men. In the 202o study, women who graduated after 1997, were 38% less likely to be promoted to full professor than men. The impact of this disparity cannot be understated: the rank of professor comes not only with a substantial pay increase but is typically a requirement for leadership roles, like department chair.

In sum, over 35 years, women entering academic medical centers as assistant professors were:

  • 24% less likely than men to be promoted to associate professor, even after the data were adjusted for department type, graduation year, and race (the latter adjustment was necessary to account for the impact of racial bias, as women faculty are more diverse than men)
  • 23% less likely than men to be promoted to full professor
  • 54% less likely than men to become chair of a department

Intentional, coordinated action is needed to disrupt the culture of academic medicine that persists in undervaluing the contributions and leadership of women. Read more on the challenge and our work to drive culture change here.