Women, do you want to be a leader at a teaching hospital? Grow a mustache!
Thirteen percent of department leader positions at top academic medical institutions in the United States are held by women, while nearly 20 percent are held by men with mustaches. The findings of the tongue-in-cheek study, an analysis of more than 1,000 headshots of department leaders at top National Institutes of Health-funded academic medical institutions, provide a new context for examining gender disparities in the field.
“The lack of women in leadership roles in medicine is well-documented, but despite the eccentricities of the study, our results show that even when you focus solely on men with mustaches – which are rare – women are still outnumbered across various specialties,” said lead author, Mackenzie Wehner, MD, MPhil, a Dermatology resident physician at Penn Medicine.
Researchers analyzed 1,018 medical department leaders by searching the institutional websites of the selected medical schools to identify leaders, such as the chair, chief or head of each specialty. For each department leader, the team recorded the medical specialty, institution, gender, and presence of mustache.
Results showed that of the 20 specialties examined, only five (obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, dermatology, family medicine and emergency medicine), had more than 20 percent female department leaders, compared to ten specialties where men with mustaches made up more than 20 percent of department leaders.
The findings are consistent with the results of a recent study of over 90,000 academic physicians, which showed that women are less likely to be full professors even after adjustment for age and research productivity.
To close this gap, the authors point to the need for additional efforts to implement policies against gender discrimination and introduce family benefits equally across gender – including paid paternity and parental leave – as well as implementing predefined hiring criteria, job flexibility, and tenure clock extensions.
Wehner, M., Nead, K., Linos, K., & Linos, E. (2015). Plenty of moustaches but not enough women: cross sectional study of medical leaders BMJ DOI: 10.1136/bmj.h6311