The number of women in medical school has been at, near, and sometimes greater than 50% for two decades, and women have outnumbered men in graduate science programs for over 25 years. At one time, experts expected that if the pipeline of women entering the field grew, the numbers of women leaders would naturally follow. That hasn’t happened.

Roadmap for Advancing Gender Equity

CWAMS President and CEO, Dr. Jeannette Mladenovic, explains why gender equity has been so hard to achieve and outlines our roadmap for advancing women into executive leadership roles:

Click here to watch this video with closed captioning on YouTube.

Where we are now

  • 18% of Deans of Schools of Medicine are women.
  • Women represent 19% of Department Chairs. Taken together, Black, Latina, Native American, Pacific Islander women comprise fewer than 3% of department chairs.
  • Women’s gains at the level of Assistant, Associate, and Senior Associate/Vice Dean have been in roles related to diversity, faculty, and student affairs and they remain underrepresented in clinical affairs and research.
  • Just 7% of medical journals are edited by women.
  • Women comprise 18% of hospital CEOs, and just 3% of healthcare CEOs overall—even though 4 out of 5 healthcare workers are women.

Obstacles to gender equity

  • Sponsors and mentors for women are limited and difficult to find. Whether you’re just starting your career or have, against the odds, gained a leadership role, it’s hard to find someone in your field who can help you navigate challenges unique to women. Black, Latina, Native American, and Pacific Islander women are underrepresenting in medicine (URiM) beginning in medical school; this often puts additional service work strain on URiM women of color who advance up the ladder.
  • Networks exclude women. When opportunities become available, especially nationally, they’re spread via word of mouth. The people at the top are vouching for the individuals they’ve trained and worked most closely with—and those individuals are, most likely, other white men.
  • Institutional policies work against us. Women start families at a time when academics are traditionally expected to be at their most productive. Leave policies, even when they exist, are not taken or often are not conducive to remaining on the career trajectory. On top of this, women who take leave can be penalized during review for tenure owing to unconscious gender bias.
  • The reward system is not transparent—leading to inequities in pay and advancement opportunities.
  • Harassment is part of the landscape. Major efforts are addressing gender bias and harassment, significant issues that hamstring our growth. This work is absolutely necessary, and we applaud it, support it, and add our effort.

Our approach is different

We are changing the culture that has entrenched this system in the first place. We believe the numbers are critical: When the numbers of women in senior ranks in our academic medical and scientific environments reach a tipping point, the science indicates that the environment that has held women back, or pushed us out of academic science and medicine entirely, will begin to change. And the women who follow us will be part of an academic environment where they can thrive and realize their goals.

Rather than seeking to change any one individual, we connect women to the resources, networks, and information they need and are unlikely to find organically so that our faculty, students, and patients of today and tomorrow can benefit from all the talent that is available to tackle the pressing problems of health and science.