Where Are the Women? The Underrepresentation of Women Physicians Among Recognition Award Recipients From Medical Specialty Societies

PM R. 2017 Aug;9(8):804-815. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2017.06.001. Epub 2017 Jun 9.


Membership in medical societies is associated with a number of benefits to members that may include professional education, opportunities to present research, scientific and/or leadership training, networking, and others. In this perspective article, the authors address the value that medical specialty society membership and inclusion have in the development of an academic physician's career and how underrepresentation of women may pose barriers to their career advancement. Because society membership itself is not likely sufficient to support the advancement of academic physicians, this report focuses on one key component of advancement that also can be used as a measure of inclusion in society activities-the representation of women physicians among recipients of recognition awards. Previous reports demonstrated underrepresentation of women physicians among recognition award recipients from 2 physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty organizations, including examples of zero or near-zero results. This report investigated whether zero or near-zero representation of women physicians among recognition award recipients from medical specialty societies extended beyond the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Examples of the underrepresentation of women physicians, as compared with their presence in the respective field, was found across a range of additional specialties, including dermatology, neurology, anesthesiology, orthopedic surgery, head and neck surgery, and plastic surgery. The authors propose a call for action across the entire spectrum of medical specialty societies to: (1) examine gender diversity and inclusion data through the lens of the organization's mission, values, and culture; (2) transparently report the results to members and other stakeholders including medical schools and academic medical centers; (3) investigate potential causes of less than proportionate representation of women; (4) implement strategies designed to improve inclusion; (5) track outcomes as a means to measure progress and inform future strategies; and (6) publish the results to engage community members in conversation about the equitable representation of women.

MeSH terms

  • Awards and Prizes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medicine
  • Needs Assessment
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Societies, Medical*
  • United States