Data show that while women are underrepresented as fellows of the American College of Chest Physicians, the volume of women applying is increasing.
While medicine—particularly physicians—has historically been a field dominated by men, rising rates of female representation show the diversifying landscape.
Specifically, in a study presented at the annual 2018 CHEST meeting in San Antonio, Texas, data showed that while women are underrepresented as fellows of the American College of Chest Physicians, the volume of women applying is increasing.
Since women face a plethora of challenges in medicine that are unique to their gender, such as societal biases, stereotyping, and an unequal division of household labor, the field can oftentimes be unwelcoming. Consequently, these oppositions create barriers to females in medicine, making academic advancement and contributions in academic advancement within medical societies difficult.
To better define the relationships between gender and academic advancement as defined by membership in a medical society fellowship, investigators “compared shared data regarding demographics and certain professional characteristics of current CHEST Fellows as well as the gender of the 2017 applicants to Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) and the gender of corresponding letter of recommendation authors.”
From the cohort of 2017 fellow applications, 20% were women.
According to the 2017 statistics, women also composed 13% of CHEST (n=1469 of 10,910), with significant differences reflected in gender by specialty.
Most of the women were in pediatrics (23%). However, significantly less women were present in specialties like internal medicine (14%), allergy and immunology (7%), surgery (7%), anesthesiology (5%), and thoracic surgery (4%).
No differences in gender between the United States and non-US-based fellow were found by the investigators.
Of the recommendation letters that were written, 75% of the sets of letters were from men compared to the mere 3% that were from both men and women. Recommendations that included both genders were 23%.
More specifically, 1 letter from another woman was included 38% of the time by female applicants. Of the male applicants, at least 1 letter from a woman was included 21% of the time. Study authors noted this was not statistically significant (OR 2.26; 95% CI .81-6.28).
Most male applications included 2 letters from men 79% of the time; women applications included 2 letters from men 62% of the time.
While the low (13%) proportion of female Fellows within the CHEST organization is below the national average of women physician (30%) and pulmonary/critical care physician (18-33%), a higher proportion of women applicants was observed in 2017 cohort.
Additionally, both male and female applicants were more likely to be written letters of recommendations by male physicians.
The authors concluded that the data can be used to bring more awareness to the struggles female physicians face in finding mentors and sponsors. In addition, the team highlighted the data provides a possible opportunity to cultivate change by encouraging women to me ntor other women in academic medicine.
“The data highlight how far we have to go toward improving representation of
women in the highest level of medicine and in medical societies,” Roozehra Khan, DO, commented. “It also identifies gaps in leadership opportunities and provides a possible opportunity to cultivate change by encouraging women to mentor other women in academic medicine.”
The abstract, "Gender Differences in Academic Medical Society fellowships," was presented at ID Week 2018.