Speaker Introductions at Internal Medicine Grand Rounds: Forms of Address Reveal Gender Bias

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 May;26(5):413-419. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.6044. Epub 2017 Feb 16.


Background: Gender bias has been identified as one of the drivers of gender disparity in academic medicine. Bias may be reinforced by gender subordinating language or differential use of formality in forms of address. Professional titles may influence the perceived expertise and authority of the referenced individual. The objective of this study is to examine how professional titles were used in the same and mixed-gender speaker introductions at Internal Medicine Grand Rounds (IMGR).

Methods: A retrospective observational study of video-archived speaker introductions at consecutive IMGR was conducted at two different locations (Arizona, Minnesota) of an academic medical center. Introducers and speakers at IMGR were physician and scientist peers holding MD, PhD, or MD/PhD degrees. The primary outcome was whether or not a speaker's professional title was used during the first form of address during speaker introductions at IMGR. As secondary outcomes, we evaluated whether or not the speakers professional title was used in any form of address during the introduction.

Results: Three hundred twenty-one forms of address were analyzed. Female introducers were more likely to use professional titles when introducing any speaker during the first form of address compared with male introducers (96.2% [102/106] vs. 65.6% [141/215]; p < 0.001). Female dyads utilized formal titles during the first form of address 97.8% (45/46) compared with male dyads who utilized a formal title 72.4% (110/152) of the time (p = 0.007). In mixed-gender dyads, where the introducer was female and speaker male, formal titles were used 95.0% (57/60) of the time. Male introducers of female speakers utilized professional titles 49.2% (31/63) of the time (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: In this study, women introduced by men at IMGR were less likely to be addressed by professional title than were men introduced by men. Differential formality in speaker introductions may amplify isolation, marginalization, and professional discomfiture expressed by women faculty in academic medicine.

Keywords: academic medicine; gender disparity; stereotype; unconscious bias.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Arizona
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Minnesota
  • Sexism*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Teaching Rounds*