More women join ACR leadership, but rates still lag

2017 05 19 11 31 18 447 Doctor Woman 400

Over the past 15 years, the number of women holding leadership positions in the American College of Radiology (ACR) has significantly increased at the state level and in terms of fellowship recognition, according to a presentation at the college's annual meeting in Washington, DC.

But at the national level, the rate of female participation in leadership roles within the ACR's organization continues to lag, said presenter Dr. Amy Patel of Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Amy Patel from Washington University in St. Louis.Dr. Amy Patel from Washington University in St. Louis.

"Although the number of women receiving fellowship recognition is now proportional to their membership in the college, women in leadership positions at the national level continue to remain below the percentage of practicing female radiologists," she said.

Mind the gap

The presentation was based on a study by Patel and colleagues that was published April 26 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. The group used ACR member data from 2000 to 2015 and analyzed the information for member demographics, including gender and participation in the ACR's leadership structure. The researchers then calculated five-year averages to assess whether there were changes in the proportion of women holding office over time.

Patel and colleagues found that the number of women in all ACR leadership positions increased over the study period, from 17.7% in to 21.4%. But when they examined the study results by state versus national leadership participation, they found differences.

Percentage of women in ACR leadership roles
  2001-2005 2011-2015
State level: Chapter presidents 9% 15.5%
State level: Vice presidents 10.4% 27.3%
State level: Councilors 13.9% 17.7%
National level: Fellow of the American College of Radiology (FACR) 7.8% 10.9%
National level: Board of Chancellors 8% 33.9%
All leadership levels 17.7% 21.4%

Over the study time period, 27% of ACR presidents and 13% of vice presidents were women. However, there were no female Board of Chancellors chairs or vice chairs, Patel said. And in the college's Council Steering Committee, for which speakers and vice speakers are elected, there were no women between 2001 and 2010 and only one woman in each position between 2011 and 2015.

"Our data shows that there is a paucity of women in top ACR leadership positions," she told "Yes, we've seen improvements, and we should be proud of that, but there's still so much work to be done."

Daring to diversify

Why are there so few women in top ACR positions? Many factors may be contributing to the problem, Patel and colleagues wrote in the published study. For example, women may choose to get involved at the state level because they can contribute where they practice, and also because it may be more feasible, requiring less travel, expense, or time away from work and family.

"Perhaps a reason for the lack of women [in national leadership roles] is the work/time obligation involved in these larger officer positions, requiring extensive time commitments to the college at the cost of family commitments," they wrote. "In the past -- and perhaps even to this day -- supportive and stay-at-home wives have allowed men to ascend the ladder to leadership. Caring responsibilities at home were and are more often provided by women, and that volunteer work culture -- where women come second -- can be challenging to change without explicit policies."

The good news is that the ACR does have structures in place to diversify its leadership, Patel told session attendees.

"The ACR leadership pipeline does exist, but it needs to be further strengthened to make progress in appointing qualified women to the most prominent leadership positions," she concluded.

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