Dr. Nancy Wayne

Scientist, Educator & Speaker

Leadership in Academic Medicine: Too Many Mustaches, Not Enough Women

A gem of a study from the British Medical Journal was published on December 16, 2015, titled, “Plenty of moustaches but not enough women: cross sectional study of medical leaders”. http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h6311

Although this looks like a prank article, BMJ is a high-impact journal, the authors are real, and they work at some of the top U.S. universities: University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Berkeley, and University of California-San Francisco.

What the authors dug-up is illuminating. There are significantly less women than there are mustached men in leadership positions at the top 50 U.S. medical schools funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The authors investigated 1018 clinical department leaders across 50 medical schools from a wide range of specialties: anesthesia, dermatology, emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pathology, pediatrics, plastic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, radiology, radiation oncology, and urology.

The Results: Women accounted for 13% of department leaders, while mustached men accounted for 19%. Across institutions, Orthopedics had the least number of women department leaders, and Obstetrics & Gynecology had the most. On the other hand, General Surgery had the least number of mustached men, and Psychiatry had the most. Is it a coincidence that my cousin is a Psychiatrist and heavily mustached and bearded (and sometimes wears a man-bun?).

This ridiculous comparison underscores the even more ridiculous fact that although we have achieved gender balance at the level of medical students for many years, we have not moved the needle much on increasing the representation of women in leadership positions in medical schools. I have written about this previously, and so for those who want more detailed information, see “Gender differences in leadership amongst first-year medical students in the small-group setting by Wayne et al., 2010”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20671452

The present manuscript calls for evidence based policies that increase women in leadership positions, but this call for action has been going on since muttonchops were in fashion.

According to the authors, even wearing fake mustaches is linked to success. Perhaps the solution to the gender disparity in leadership has been staring us in the face all along. Forget gender disparity training. We women should just put on fake mustaches. I’m sure then men will have no trouble taking us seriously.


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This entry was posted on January 20, 2016 by and tagged .
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