Gender Equity in Membership, Leadership, and Award Recognition in the Wilderness Medical Society

Wilderness Environ Med. 2022 Sep;33(3):275-283. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2022.04.006. Epub 2022 Jun 23.


Introduction: Despite near gender parity for women entering medical careers, women remain underrepresented in medical societies. This study evaluated the gender distribution associated with Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) activities.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed on the gender breakdown of the following WMS members: a single-day 2020 snapshot, conference attendees 2012 through 2020, conference presenters from winter 2017 through winter 2021, and leadership and awards data from 1984 through 2021. was used to generate probability-based gender categorizations (male/female) based on first names or pronoun associations.

Results: Gender was assigned in 91% (4043/4461) of 2020 WMS members, 92% (6179/6720) of 2012-2020 conference attendees, and 100% of remaining categories. Women represented 28% (1143/4043) of members, 27% (1679/6179) of conference attendees, 31% (143/465) of all conference presenters, 20% (62/303) of mainstage presenters, 23% (17/75) of all board members, 38% (14/37) of committee chairs, and 10% (2/20) of board presidents. Women received 18% (42/228) of recognition awards and 31% (15/48) of research grants issued.

Conclusions: Although women comprise a minority of WMS participants, gender distribution was similar across categories for membership, conference presenters, total board positions, and research grant awards. Relative underrepresentation was seen in the highest leadership levels, in recognition awards, and in mainstage presenters. Ongoing auditing may help to identify and address sources of bias and/or barriers to participation. Although it is only one of many components of equity, identifying successes and future opportunities for gender balance can strengthen the base of the WMS, promote growth, and ensure a strong leadership pipeline.

Keywords: awards; bias; female; leadership; medical societies; sexism.

MeSH terms

  • Awards and Prizes*
  • Female
  • Gender Equity
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Societies, Medical