Gender-related differences in the pathway to and characteristics of U.S. medical school deanships

Acad Med. 2012 Aug;87(8):1015-23. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31825d3495.


Purpose: To explore factors that may be involved in the persistent paucity of women leaders in U.S. academic medicine and to provide baseline gender-related data for developing strategies to promote gender equity in academic medicine leadership.

Method: Using data sets from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the authors examined the relationship of gender to career progression and to deanship characteristics by conducting descriptive and correlation statistical analyses for 534 full and interim deans (38 women; 496 men) appointed between 1980 and November 2006 (inclusive) to serve U.S. Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)-accredited medical schools.

Results: Although the number of women deans increased during the 27-year study period, the representation of women remains low (they constitute only 15% of deans appointed from 2000 to 2006) and has failed to keep pace with the percentages of women medical school faculty and students. On average, women deans-most with deanships at less research-intensive medical schools-obtained their initial doctorates from similarly less research-intensive schools, held more business-related advanced degrees beyond the original doctorate, took longer to be promoted to full professor, and had shorter tenures than did their men counterparts.

Conclusions: Women leaders of U.S. LCME-accredited medical schools have taken longer to advance through the academic ranks, serve at less research-intensive institutions, and had shorter tenures than did men deans. These results underscore the challenges women leaders face in traditionally male-dominated organizations, and they provide baseline data to inform medical schools building inclusive senior leadership teams.

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Sex Factors
  • United States