Opinion: ‘Active intervention’ needed to fix gender gap in academic radiology

There is a substantial gender discrepancy within academic radiology departments that requires a real and ongoing response to correct, according to an opinion piece recently published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

“There consistently has been male overrepresentation in diagnostic radiology residency programs, academic departments, and private practice groups,” wrote Lars Grimm, MD, and his co-authors from Duke University Medical School. “Women have consistently represented only 26–27 percent of residency spots, which limits the number of women available for future academic and leadership positions.”

Grimm and his colleagues performed a review of 58 academic radiology faculty rosters and found that while women make up 34 percent of the overall radiology workforce, they hold far fewer leadership positions—just 25 percent of vice chairs and section chiefs and 9 percent of all department chairs—than their male counterparts.

It’s a problem that isn’t going to fix itself, the authors wrote. “The lack of appreciable change in the gender disparity within diagnostic radiology over the last decade indicates that the imbalance will not passively self-correct,” wrote Grimm et al. “Instead, active steps are needed.”

Those steps include raising awareness of gender discrepancy within radiology, exposing female medical students to radiology sooner and improving mentorship resources for female radiologists, according to the authors, who emphasized a need for increased numbers of women in department leadership roles.

“The lack of women in leadership positions within radiology departments is limiting and can be discouraging to young female faculty who are looking down a career path to nowhere,” wrote Grimm and his colleagues. “By increasing the representation of women in vice chair and division chief roles, there will almost certainly be a downstream effect on the diversity of department chairs.”

These changes, the authors say, will go a long way toward correcting the gender imbalance in radiology and will "help to provide for a more promising future for diagnostic radiology.”