ACR 2015: Why aren't more women becoming radiologists?

2015 05 19 14 15 34 281 Gender Symbols 200

The number of female medical students who pick radiology as a specialty remains stubbornly low, nearly a decade after the problem was first recognized, according to a talk at the American College of Radiology's ACR 2015 meeting this week in Washington, DC. Women still make up less than a third of residents in radiology programs.

Presenter Jenika Karcich from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School shared results from a study designed to track whether increased awareness of gender disparity has led to any tangible changes in gender representation in radiology. The researchers found that the disproportionately low number of women in the field has remained relatively consistent over the past 10 years, even though the gender gap in radiology has been widely publicized and debated, lead author Dr. Humaira Chaudhry told

"There's been so much interest in this topic, but not much real change," Chaudhry said.

The more things change ...

The researchers investigated the number of women in 185 U.S. radiology residency programs, assessing whether there has been a change in the proportion of women in the programs over the past decade. To gauge the level of participation of women in leadership positions, they also looked at membership and committee lists from RSNA and ACR, the mastheads of Radiology and the American Journal of Roentgenology, and the number of female program directors and academic chairs across the U.S.

Since 2004, women have consistently made up about 27% of radiology residents -- even though the percentage of female medical students has hovered around 46%, they found.

This echoes findings that the group published in 2006 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, for which this study is a follow up, Chaudhry said. The original study found that the percentage of women in diagnostic radiology residencies remained at or slightly above 25% between 1995 and 2005 (JACR, February 2006, Vol. 3:2, pp. 131-134).

In the current study, the researchers found that the proportion of women on the masthead of Radiology has remained relatively constant over the past decade, at approximately 13%. But the proportion of women on the masthead of the American Journal of Roentgenology increased over the time frame, from 15% in 2004 to 26% in 2014.

The percentage of female radiology residency program directors steadily increased to 30% in 2014, they also found. There has been a smaller rise in the percentage of women serving as radiology department chairs, shifting from 8% in 2004 to 9.6% in 2014.

More research

Even though there has been an increase in the number of women holding leadership positions as program directors and on the masthead of AJR, it's still unclear why radiology seems to continue to be an unattractive specialty for women, Chaudhry told

"Although there have been numerous publications over the past decade exploring and raising awareness of the underrepresentation of women in radiology, not much has changed," she said. "If the radiology community really wants to correct the gender gap in our specialty, it's imperative that we identify the root cause and then institute changes to correct it."

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