ACR speaker gender gap lingers despite improvements since 2017
ATLANTA — Over the past 2 years, women have represented 44.9% of speakers and moderators at the American College of Rheumatology annual meetings, according to a presenter here. Though slightly higher than the mean reported for U.S. medical conferences in 2017, more work should be done to achieve equal representation.
“There is a gender gap — that is, proportionately more male than female physicians — across most medical specialties in Canada and the U.S., despite the current gender parity in medical school. Limited numbers of role models, sponsors and mentors may contribute,” Kanika Monga, MD, study author and rheumatology fellow with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and UT Physicians in Houston, told Healio Rheumatology.
“A lack of women leaders and representation in certain specialties may perpetuate the gap further,” she said. “A goal of attaining equal (or as close to equal as possible) representation at national conferences is essential.”
Monga collaborated on the project with Jean Liew, MD, of the University of Washington, after they “became interested in similar research presented by Duma et al at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. The purpose of our study was to describe the proportion of female representation among speakers and moderators at the ACR meeting over the past 2 years.”
Monga and Liew calculated the proportion of female speakers and moderators at the annual meetings in 2017 and 2018 using the ACR Session Tracker, allowing individual speakers to be counted more than once. Representation was further categorized by presentation type — basic or clinical science — and session type — pre-meeting, ACR or AHRP general session, Meet the Professor, abstracts, workshop or study group.
The proportion of female speakers and moderators in 2017 was 42.8% and in 2018 was 47%, representing an increase of 4.2% from one year to the next, or 46.2 persons in a conference of about 1,100 presenters. Compared with basic science presentations, there were more women speakers in clinical science sessions (average, 40.5% vs. 45.8%), and ARHP general sessions had the highest proportion of female speakers (average, 65.3%). Meanwhile, the lowest proportions occurred in the Meet the Professor sessions (34.4%) and workshops (28.7%).
“It is important to conduct research like this because although the gap was more narrow as compared to other conferences, we must remain cognizant of its presence and continue to work towards equal representation,” she told Healio Rheumatology. “Research like this also helps us take a more granular, detailed examination. For example, from our study we realized that there was a greater proportion of female speakers in the clinical than in the basic science presentations. Keeping up with the times and the field is extremely important.”
Monga cited the 2015 ACR work task force study, which she said “reported that out of the active rheumatologists in 2015, 59.2% were male and 40.8% were female — and by 2020, female physicians will make up more than half (57%) of all adult rheumatologists.
“The best way to promote gender equality at annual meetings is by encouraging, supporting, promoting and sponsoring,” Monga said. “We should continue to be enthusiastic about continuing research in this area and involve students, fellows and even senior faculty. The American College of Rheumatology should promote its excellent efforts towards closing the gender equality gap. We appreciate its continued developments, implementations and commitments to making this issue an integral element of the ACR’s mission.” – by Stacey L. Adams
Monga K, Liew J. Abstract #1157. #WomeninRheumatology: Is there a speaker gender gap at ACR meetings? Presented at ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, Nov. 8-13, 2019; Atlanta.
Disclosure: Monga and Liew report no relevant financial disclosures.