Gender representation in Canadian surgical leadership and medical faculties: a cross-sectional study

BMC Med Educ. 2024 Jun 17;24(1):667. doi: 10.1186/s12909-024-05641-6.


BACKGROUND: Over the past two and half decades, Canadian medical school students have become majority female, and the medical workforce is therefore increasingly comprised of female physicians. Whether this change, however, has been reflected in the gender balance within medical school faculty positions and leadership has not been well studied in Canada.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study examined the genders of full-time faculty members from the most recently available AFMC data, the current heads of departments of medicine and surgery from department websites and confirmed with respective universities.

RESULTS: Overall, women held 40.5% of full-time faculty positions in Canadian faculties of medicine. Female representation decreased with increasing academic rank, from 57.8% of instructors to 50.8% of assistant, 39.2% of associate, and 28.1% of full professors, respectively, with the greatest rate of increase over the past decade among full professors (0.75% per year). The heads of departments of family medicine were majority female (67%), and heads internal medicine at parity (50% female), consistent with numbers of practicing physicians. However, the heads of surgical divisions were majority male (86% overall). Accounting for the gender balance of practicing surgeons, male compared to female surgeons were 2.9 times as likely to be division head (95% CI 1.78-4.85, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Women remain underrepresented in Canadian faculties of medicine in leadership positions. Leadership in departments of surgery has particularly low female representation, even relative to the proportion of practicing female surgeons within the respective discipline.

PMID:38886676 | DOI:10.1186/s12909-024-05641-6