(Reuters Health)—Women and minorities face more barriers to getting ahead in their medical careers, both early in training and later on, researchers say.
In one study, Dr. Julie Boiko of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues found that women are underrepresented among speakers at grand rounds. This was true for all but two of the medical specialties they examined during 2014.
“Speaker selections convey messages of ‘this is what a leader looks like,’ and women’s visibility in prestigious academic venues may subconsciously affect women’s desires to pursue academic medicine,” Boiko’s team writes in JAMA Internal Medicine, online March 6.1
A separate study in the same issue of the journal found that female doctors are judged to have less experienced when they finish training. Arjun Dayal of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and colleagues analyzed 33,456 evaluations from 2013–2015 of 359 residents from 285 supervising doctors at eight U.S. emergency medicine programs.2
Male and female doctors scored similarly during their first years of residency. But by the end of training, which typically lasted three years, male doctors were judged to have about a 13% higher attainment of important milestones than their female counterparts.
“We saw this across all the levels of competencies,” says Dayal. Female physicians were receiving poorer evaluations whether they were diagnosing a patient or fulfilling physically demanding tasks.
The new study can’t explain why women were evaluated lower than their male counterparts, but the senior author suggests it may be that women are judged more harshly as they take on leadership traits that are stereotypically male.
“This study simply adds to a variety of other studies published recently suggesting that female physicians face a negative consequence in their work—for a lack of a better explanation—because they’re female,” says Dr. Vineet Arora, who is also at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
A third study in the same journal found that medical students who belong to racial or ethnic minority groups have lower odds of being accepted into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha honor society.3
Dr. Dowin Boatright from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues looked at data on 4,655 medical students who applied in 2013 to residency programs at their institution.
Students would typically indicate on their applications if they were members of Alpha Omega Alpha. “In terms of recognition, it is probably one of the most prestigious honors you can receive as a medical student,” Boatright tells Reuters Health.