Background: I conducted a study to determine whether women who graduate from medical schools are more or less likely than their male counterparts to pursue full-time careers in academic medicine and to advance to the senior ranks of medical school faculties.
Methods: The rates of advancement to the ranks of assistant, associate, and full professor for all U.S. medical school graduates from 1979 through 1993 and for all members of U.S. medical school faculties from 1979 through 1997 were studied. Cohorts were defined on the basis of the year of graduation from medical school, track (tenure or nontenure), and academic department. Within each cohort, the number of women who advanced to a senior rank was compared with the number that would be expected on the basis of parity between men and women, and 95 percent confidence intervals were calculated.
Results: Women were significantly more likely than men to pursue an academic career. During the study period, 634 more women became faculty members than expected. The numbers were higher in the older cohorts than in the younger cohorts. The numbers of women who advanced to the ranks of associate and full professor were significantly lower than the expected numbers. This was true for both tenure and nontenure tracks, even after adjustment for the department. A total of 334 fewer women advanced to associate professor than expected, and 44 fewer women advanced to full professor than expected.
Conclusions: Disparities persist in the advancement of men and women on medical school faculties. However, the numbers of women physicians at all levels of academic medicine are increasing.