The Gender Discrepancy in Radiology Research

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In 2015, a study presented at the ACR (American College of Radiology) on women in radiology found that since 2004, women consistently made up 25% of US radiology residency programs, while 50% of medical students are women. One of the reasons behind these percentages is that many women are not being exposed to it as a career path. Furthermore, the curriculum of many schools do not include radiology until later in the academic ladder. According to Dr. Lucy Spalluto, Co-Founder, Director and Associate Director of Women in Radiology, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University “there are gaps at all levels yet only around 25% of radiology residents are women, stagnant for many years and the numbers for women in leadership positions in radiology are even lower” (Spalluto). It makes me wonder, what is the main cause for the disparity of female workers in Radiology in the United States?

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To answer my question, I decided to explore more deeply into the percentages of radiology female students in the US and compare them to the ones in Canada. In his article “How can we reduce The Gender Discrepancy?” Lars J. Grimm states that, 94.7% of women who chose not to pursue radiology indicated it was because of a perceived lack of patient contact and that medical students must be exposed early in their training to the depth and breadth of clinical contact within the field of radiology to overcome the false perception that radiology lacks patient contact (679). Radiologists perform image-guided procedures but do not normally handle the general medical needs of a patient. Instead, a radiologist is a specialist who uses the tools of his or her trade to make a diagnosis for a patient, then presents the results to the patient's physician. When I asked my interviewee about what women bring to patient care in radiology, she stated that, “Women bring a different perspective to the workplace. Their collaborative, empathetic, and, and compassionate approach to patient care and education is a powerful asset that the radiology community should embrace and leverage” (Spalluto). In addition, the role of radiologists at the time of diagnosis, providing patients with compassion, support, and encouraging them to be involved in their healing process is not a lack of patient contact and it should not be disregarded.

Moreover, a study made on Canadian Radiology Residency Applicants states that one of the possible reasons to why the gender gap occurs is that there might be some gender discrimination at some level, either throughout training or employment and that this can discourage women from following a career path that they would otherwise be interested in. (234). Uncomfortable work environments can lead to dissatisfaction and attrition. In healthcare today, multidisciplinary interprofessional teams are the norm; all employees need to respect one another and treat each other with civility. As with unconscious bias, inappropriate behaviors must be recognized and dealt with immediately and effectively in an open and transparent manner. Organizations must be clear that it is never acceptable to harass or mistreat a coworker. Swift corrective action must be taken with individuals who demonstrate a pattern of unchecked inappropriate behavior. Women in leadership can change workplace culture; when women are well-represented in core management positions, harassment is less likely to occur (Spalluto).

Additionally, Amy Widner states that female mentors could help erase the fears that female medical students may have about length, difficulty of residency, and the balance between work/life. She reinforces her statement by saying that personal stories have power and gives the students a sense that is she can do it, they can do it as well. When asked about more female mentors and their benefit, Spalluto stated; “I think the voice of women in radiology is growing. The current Chair of the Board of Chancellors of the American College of Radiology (Geraldine McGinty) is for the first time a woman. The president of the Radiological Society of North America is a woman (Vijay Rao). The Executive Director of the American Board of Radiology is a woman (Valerie Jackson). The editor of the Journal of the American College of Radiology is a woman (Ruth Carlos). I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a profession that I enjoy and that also allows me to spend time with my family. I hope other young women would be interested in pursuing a similar career. My 5 year old daughter tells me when she grows up she wants to be a doctor and a mom, just like me, so I guess I’m a role model to at least one” (Spalluto).

In conclusion, I believe that the imbalance of women in radiology is mainly due to the lack of female radiologists in leading positions and the absence of female mentors is causing the (disinterest?) in the field. Although the road to reducing the gender gap has not been and is still not an easy one.I think that with better recruitment of undergraduates and medical students, combined with more visibility of women who are in the radiology field with examples of their career success and general happiness with their choice, we’re going to be able to encourage more women to join this field.

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