Importance: Gender equity is a prominent issue in the medical profession. Representation of female physicians at academic meetings has been identified as an important component of gender equity; however, this topic has not been systematically assessed.
Objective: To determine the trend during the last decade in the proportion of speakers who were women at major academic medical conferences held in Canada and in the United States.
Design, setting, and participants: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted examining the gender of speakers listed in meeting programs of medical conferences held in Canada and in the United States in 2007 and from 2013 through 2017. Eligible conferences were identified using a sensitive search strategy, and a previously validated tool was used to analyze each meeting speaker list and to assign a proportion of female speakers. Conferences held in English language, hosted in Canada or the United States, and targeted to a physician audience with 100 or more attendees were included. The comparison group was active physicians in Canada and in the United States.
Main outcomes and measures: The mean of the proportion of female speakers at each conference per year.
Results: In total, 181 conferences with 701 individual meetings were analyzed, including 100 medical and 81 surgical specialty conferences. The proportion of women ranged from 0% to 82.6% of all speakers. The mean (SD) proportion of female conference speakers for all meetings analyzed significantly increased from 24.6% (14.6%) for 40 meetings in 2007 to 34.1% (15.1%) for 181 meetings in 2017 (P < .001). The mean proportion of female speakers at medical specialty conferences was 9.8% higher (SE, 1.9%; P < .001) than the mean proportion of female speakers at surgical specialty conferences for all years analyzed. The mean proportion of female speakers at conferences was similar to the mean proportion of active female physicians across all specialties in the United States and in Canada for all years analyzed.
Conclusions and relevance: Although our findings indicate that the proportion of female speakers at medical conferences increased during the last decade, women continue to be underrepresented. Speaker invitation and selection at conferences represent important opportunities to influence gender equity within medicine.