Male and female cardiologists, particularly those in leadership roles, have been urged to actively promote the presence of women within the specialty if gender parity is ever to become a reality for the profession.
Speaking at a packed Women In Cardiology session at the recent CSANZ ASM in Adelaide, interventional cardiologist Dr Sonya Burgess told the audience that cardiology lagged way behind other specialties when it came to gender diversity.
She noted that only 15% of cardiologists and 4.8% of interventionists in Australia and New Zealand were women.
And there was only one female interventional cardiologist for every 1.7 million people in Australia and New Zealand compared to one male per 78,000 people.
“Now that’s important if you’ve ever been sexually harassed and don’t feel comfortable approaching a male [doctor]…I’m not saying that males and females aren’t all doing a good job, but some patients want the right to choose and some patients will not come to a doctor if they don’t feel safe,” she said.
And while for the past two decades more than 50% of medical school graduates in Australia and New Zealand were women, there were currently only 47 female cardiology advanced trainees, representing 23 percent of cardiology advanced trainees.
Furthermore, there were only four female interventional cardiology fellows, making up a paltry 9% of cardiology trainees.
The situation was unlikely to change any time soon, said Dr Burgess, who added that modeling based on past and present gender proportions within cardiology showed that gender parity not likely to be achieved by the specialty within 50 years.
“We will not see equal representation in our lifetimes…we are lagging behind surgery by 20 years. I wouldn’t have predicted this. I thought we were as bad but I didn’t think we were worse,” she told the audience.
According to Dr Burgess, there were a myriad of reasons why females were not entering cardiology, including the perception of a poor work-life balance, concerns around exposure to radiation, a lack of opportunity and bias of male colleagues.
“The value of diversity for our patients, our trainees, for our colleagues and our specialty is substantial. We need leaders who believe this data is important and allies who value diversity… it’s time to actively facilitate change,” she said.
“We need to aim to produce a workforce that represents our patients and we need to challenge the systems we have in place that may make it more difficult for people who are not already there to get there.”
“We also need to collaborate and we need to move forward positively to implement the change we want to see… and work together to debunk myths and to provide visible role models.”
“When talking about solutions we use the pronoun we, not they … this is not everyone else’s problem this is our problem and we can solve it if we work together and opt into finding solutions,” she added.