Objective: To compare the representation of women in obstetrics and gynecology department-based leadership to other clinical specialties while accounting for proportions of women in historical residency cohorts.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional observational study. The gender of department-based leaders (chair, vice chair, division director) and residency program directors was determined from websites of 950 academic departments of anesthesiology, diagnostic radiology, general surgery, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Each specialty's representation ratio-proportion of leadership roles held by women in 2013 divided by proportion of residents in 1990 who were women-and 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated. A ratio of 1 indicates proportionate representation.
Results: Women were significantly underrepresented among chairs for all specialties (ratios 0.60 or less, P≤.02) and division directors for all specialties except anesthesiology (ratio 1.13, 95% CI 0.87-1.46) and diagnostic radiology (ratio 0.97, 95% CI 0.81-1.16). The representation ratio for vice chair was below 1.0 for all specialties except anesthesiology; this finding reached statistical significance only for pathology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Women were significantly overrepresented as residency program directors in general surgery, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics (ratios greater than 1.19, P≤.046). Obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics had the highest proportions of residents in 1990 and department leaders in 2013 who were women.
Conclusion: Despite having the largest proportion of leaders who were women, representation ratios demonstrate obstetrics and gynecology is behind other specialties in progression of women to departmental leadership. Women's overrepresentation as residency program directors raises concern because education-based academic tracks may not lead to major leadership roles.