Gender disparity remains high in these 4 physician specialities

By Michael Woodhead

24 Jun 2019

Women still account for less than 30% of practitioner numbers within the specialties of cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology and respiratory medicine, a new study  shows.

In contrast, female representation is more evident in specialities such as endocrinology, rheumatology and medical oncology, according to a new analysis by members of the Women in Cardiology interest group.

Published in the Internal Medicine Journal, the figures show that cardiology will continue to be an ‘outlier’ profession in terms of gender equity because only 21% of advanced trainees are female, according to study authors including Dr Sarah Zaman a cardiologist at Monash Heart, Melbourne.

Other specialities that currently have low rates of female representation will show a turnaround in the near future as they have succeeded in recruiting higher rates of women into training as advanced trainees, including gastroenterology, respiratory medicine and neurology:

Speciality Female (%) Male (%) Female advanced trainees (%) Male advanced trainees (%)
All 37 63 53 47
Cardiology 15 85 21 79
Gastroenterology 23 77 40 60
Neurology 29 71 51 49
Respiratory 29 71 44 56
Nephrology 35 65 61 39
Infectious Diseases 41 59 62 38
Medical Oncology 45 55 58 42
Rheumatology 45 55 68 32
Geriatric Medicine 48 52 66 34
Endocrinology 55 45 78 22
General Surgery 15 85 37 63
Orthopaedic Surgery 4 96 11 89


Dr Zaman and colleagues say cardiology should follow the example of other specialities, which she says can be “immensely proud of achieving gender parity “ in postgraduate training.

They have done this through initiatives that focus on workplace culture, flexible training pathways, extended parental leave and having designated mentors to support trainees, the authors said.

Women may be deterred form choosing to pursue a career in cardiology because of the “perceived unpredictable work schedule, long work hours, poor work-life balance, ‘old boys club’ culture, coupled with limitations in career progression, challenges regarding job and leadership opportunities, training inflexibility, sexual discrimination and limited female role models,” they wrote.

“The fact that gender ratios in cardiology have not changed in the last decade  suggests a degree of recruitment inertia, and a lack of recognition of this important issue and the way it impacts on our practice and overall patient care,” they said.

“Creating a fair, transparent and standardised advanced training selection process would minimise uncertainty and concerns regarding unconscious bias and gender-based discrimination. Introducing for gender balance performance and reporting may be an additional means of promoting gender diversity. More importantly, focused endeavours to improving female representation in leadership and academic positions, will likely help to improve this gender imbalance.”

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