For the first time in history, women accounted for the majority of medical school matriculants in 2017.¹ Gender-equity problem solved, right? Not quite.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 38 – No 12 – December 2019
Although this reflects progress for women in medicine, many studies have demonstrated that gender inequity becomes increasingly apparent as women progress through their careers. Increasing the number of women in medicine will not adequately address or magically fix this.
Both within the United States and beyond, women are much less likely than men to become full professors, even after taking into account age, experience, specialty, and independent measures of research and clinical productivity.²
Women of color are particularly affected, accounting for 7.5 percent of all full-time faculty in the United States and, even more alarmingly, only 0.9 percent of professors in the United Kingdom.³
In emergency medicine, a 2017 study by Madsen et al revealed a salary gap of $19,462 in academic emergency medicine, with women earning less than men regardless of rank, clinical hours, or training.4
Course correction is needed. A multipronged approach is necessary and will include some temporary stopgap solutions as well as lasting systemic reforms. In 2016, Choo et al published best-practice recommendations to support the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women within academic emergency medicine through specific and feasible recommendations.5 Mentorship and networking opportunities are the core strategies, in essence mirroring successful paths that men have used. A more organized approach can be found in gender-specific groups created specifically to propel success for women in academia. Until recently, though, there was little evidence to validate the utility of such groups in advancing the career objectives of female physicians.
A small recent qualitative study utilized semistructured interviews of female physicians at various career stages who have been a part of a national women-focused group.6 Most participants found many reasons that membership had helped further their careers. Several dominant themes, both objective and subjective, emerged.
Mentorship and Sponsorship
In a recent systematic review, mentoring was seen as a central component in almost all formal programs that were created to support the careers of women in academic medicine.³ Although no generalizable method for mentorship or formalized program was universally implemented, those undergoing such mentorship noted improvement in perceived skills and self-esteem.7 In particular, Lin et al found that junior female faculty often felt mentorship increased their sense of confidence. Sponsorship, an entity distinct from mentorship, was also highlighted as a benefit, as it led to senior members nominating junior members for leadership, awards, and research opportunities.6