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SheMD Journal Club - Where are the WOMEN?

Here at sheMD, we believe in the importance of practicing Evidence-Based Medicine. We believe the same principles apply to discussing Gender and Medical Education. Therefore, we are bringing you an entire Journal Club series! Our series will focus on foundational and new literature within the gender and medicine space.

Why is this article important?

Medical societies provide career and leadership development opportunities for physicians. Prior to this study, a gap had been seen in PM&R and physiatry in terms of awards given by medical societies, with women receiving less awards than expected based on the proportion of women practicing in the specialty.

Article Summary

What they looked at:

  • This study looked at underrepresentation of female physicians compared with their presence in the specific field across a variety of fields. In other words, they compared the percent of women receiving awards to the percent of women practicing in that specific specialty. They included dermatology, neurology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, PM&R, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, physiatry and anesthesiology in the study. These societies are often called the “gatekeepers” to professional and career development resources that physicians need to succeed and advance in their careers. So looking at how these societies are awarding their members and how they may be contributing to career advancement is important as we try to decrease the leadership gap in medicine.

How they measured things:

  • In January/February 2017, published recognition award recipient lists from medical specialty societies were surveyed for zero or near-zero representation of women physicians. Identification of each recipient as a man or woman was accomplished via online searches that resulted in association of recipient names with photographs and/or profiles that included gender-indicating pronouns such as “he” or “she.”

What were their outcomes:

  • The study found noticeable underrepresentation of women physicians when compared to the percent of women in active practice or compared to the percent of women in accredited resident/fellowship programs nationally.

Why do we care about this article?

What does this mean?

  • Awards are a component of the promotion process for members of academic medicine. For those not in academic medicine, awards can also have a significant impact on the professional development of physicians. The underrepresentation of women receiving societal awards can negatively impact promotion and career growth and thus contribute to the leadership gap we see in medicine.

How does this apply to us?

  • We, as SheMDs, should be aware that this discrepancy exists. We should actively work to be involved in our medical societies, taking on committee chair positions, nominating one another for achievement awards, and working to promote gender equity. Our #HeForSheMD’s can also work to promote women in their medical societies and choose women that are well-deserving of awards or leadership positions in order to move the needle on equality.

Take Home Point

  • Recognize that this gap exists.

  • Get involved in your medical society. Join the awards committee. Nominate female colleagues for awards and promote gender equity.

Similar Articles

  • For further reading on the topic, check out these articles!

    • Silver JK, Blauwet CA, Bhatnagar S, et al. Women Physicians Are Underrepresented in Recognition Awards From the Association of Academic Physiatrists. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2018;97(1):34-40. doi:10.1097/PHM.0000000000000792

    • Silver, Julie K., et al. "Female physicians are underrepresented in recognition awards from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation." PM&R 9.10 (2017): 976-984.

Silver JK, Slocum CS, Bank AM, et al. Where Are the Women? The Underrepresentation of Women Physicians Among Recognition Award Recipients From Medical Specialty Societies. PM&R. 2017;9(8):804-815. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2017.06.001

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