SAN FRANCISCO — Study findings presented at IDWeek showed significant sex differences in rank and academic achievement among infectious disease faculty.
Analyzing a database of physicians in the United States with faculty appointments at medical schools, Jennifer Manne-Goehler, MD, DSc, MSc, infectious disease fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues found that women were far less likely than men to achieve the rank of full professor and appeared as first or last author on scientific publications about half as often.
“One day, I was reading an article in Circulation that showed women were less likely than men to climb the academic ladder in cardiology,” Manne-Goehler told Infectious Disease News. “Given that I was an aspiring ID doc — I’m currently a first-year ID fellow but was a resident when we started this project — I wondered how women and men differed in terms of achievement and faculty rank within academic ID. I did a brief, informal literature search and did not find any papers that clearly answered this question, so my co-authors and I decided to embark on this analysis ourselves.”
For their study, Manne-Goehler and colleagues analyzed data from 2014 and used multivariable regression models to assess sex differences in full professorship by specialty and the relationship between these factors and achieving the rank of full professor within infectious disease.
According to the findings, among 2,016 academic infectious disease physicians, 37% (n = 742) were women. Women faculty members were younger than men, 48.4 years vs. 54.0 year, and accounted for 48.1% of assistant professors, 39.7% of associate professors and 19.2% of full professors. In adjusted models, the rate of full professorship vs. assistant or associate professorships among females compared with males was large and highly significant, Manne-Goehler and colleagues said, with an absolute adjusted difference of –8% (95% CI, –11.9% to –4.1%).
“Based on my knowledge of the literature and anecdotal experience, I was not very surprised that women were less likely than men to advance to the rank of full professor,” Manne-Goehler said. “However, I was very surprised that the adjusted difference between men and women in ID was larger, almost double, the difference within cardiology.”
In terms of publications, women ID faculty members had fewer total publications than men (mean, 24.1 vs. 37.8) and appeared less often as first or last authors (mean, 16.7 vs. 32.2) —findings that Manne-Goehler said also were surprising.
Experts in the field previously described to Infectious Disease News that women in ID must work harder to prove themselves by taking on additional responsibilities and working additional hours. Manne-Goehler said hiring and promotions committees in ID divisions should be aware of the findings in their study.
“Literature from other specialties has also suggested that sex differences begin in training, so it is a finding that may also be relevant for medical educators and ID fellowship directors to be aware of,” she said. “It isn't clear at all what is driving these differences within ID, so I believe there is a need for further investigation into both the cause of these sex differences and policy solutions to advance equity among men and women faculty members in ID.”
“I think science is a collaborative endeavor that is also enriched by more great minds, from different backgrounds, solving problems together,” Manne-Goehler added. “It is important to have women as senior mentors and role models in all disciplines in order to motivate future generations of physicians to pursue careers in medicine and science.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Manne-Goehler J, et al. Abstract 875. Presented at: IDWeek; Oct. 3-7, 2018; San Francisco.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.