Inadequate progress for women in academic medicine: findings from the National Faculty Study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015 Mar;24(3):190-9. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2014.4848. Epub 2015 Feb 6.


Background: Women have entered academic medicine in significant numbers for 4 decades and now comprise 20% of full-time faculty. Despite this, women have not reached senior positions in parity with men. We sought to explore the gender climate in academic medicine as perceived by representatives to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) and Group on Diversity and Inclusion (GDI).

Methods: We conducted a qualitative analysis of semistructured telephone interviews with GWIMS and GDI representatives and other senior leaders at 24 randomly selected medical schools of the 1995 National Faculty Study. All were in the continental United States, balanced for public/private status and AAMC geographic region. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and organized into content areas before an inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Themes that were expressed by multiple informants were studied for patterns of association.

Results: Five themes were identified: (1) a perceived wide spectrum in gender climate; (2) lack of parity in rank and leadership by gender; (3) lack of retention of women in academic medicine (the "leaky pipeline"); (4) lack of gender equity in compensation; and (5) a disproportionate burden of family responsibilities and work-life balance on women's career progression.

Conclusions: Key informants described improvements in the climate of academic medicine for women as modest. Medical schools were noted to vary by department in the gender experience of women, often with no institutional oversight. Our findings speak to the need for systematic review by medical schools and by accrediting organizations to achieve gender equity in academic medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adult
  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Leadership*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Women*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Schools, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workforce