The status of women at one academic medical center. Breaking through the glass ceiling

JAMA. 1990 Oct 10;264(14):1813-7.


Despite recent gains in admission to medical school and in obtaining junior faculty positions, women remain underrepresented at senior academic ranks and in leadership positions in medicine. This discrepancy has been interpreted as evidence of a "glass ceiling" that prevents all but a few exceptional women from gaining access to leadership positions. We analyzed data from Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY, for all faculty hired from 1969 through 1988 and found that the likelihood of promotion on the tenure track was 0.40 for women and 0.48 for men (ratio, 0.82; 95% confidence interval, 0.56 to 1.20); on the clinical track the likelihood of promotion was 0.75 for women and 0.72 for men (ratio, 1.04; 95% confidence interval, 0.56 to 1.94). Additional analysis of current faculty showed that in the academic year 1988-1989 the proportion of women at each tenure track rank at the College of Physicians & Surgeons equaled or exceeded the national proportion of women graduating from medical school, once allowance was made for the average time lag necessary to attain each rank. On the clinical track women were somewhat overrepresented, particularly at the junior rank. National data that describe medical school faculty, which combine tenure and clinical tracks, showed that in 1988 women were proportionately represented at each rank once the lead time from graduation was considered. We conclude that objective evidence shows that women can succeed and are succeeding in gaining promotions in academic medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Schools, Medical*