Ever since Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the x-ray in 1895, the radiology field has been predominantly dominated by men. Although 46 percent of medical students are female, only 27 percent of radiology residents are women, says a study from the Medical University of South Carolina. The study writers point to a limiting pipeline — rather than discrimination — for the weak matriculation numbers. “Most of the concerns are misnomers,” said Susan J. Ackerman, MD and president of American Association of Women in Radiology. Here three factors that the researchers have determined are preventing more women from becoming radiologists:
Radiology curriculum. According to the study’s lead author, Lara Hewett there’s a lack of versatile teaching components during most medical students’ radiology rotation. Most curricula demonstrate the solitary aspect of radiology — like reading images and not the instances where the physician interacts with other specialists and patients.
Mentorship and role models. Although the number of women in department chair positions has grown slightly from eight percent in 2004 to 9.6 percent in 2014, there’s still an undetermined leadership pathway for women who want to thrive in the field. In order for more women to enter radiology, the track to advancement and promotion requires clearer steps.
Exposure. The researchers blame the structure of medical school rotations for not attracting enough female radiologist residents. According to Stephanie E. Spottswood, MD, a radiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical School’s radiology department, most schools feature the radiology rotation during the third or fourth year when most students have already made up their minds about a specialty.
As the number of women applying to radiology residencies remains stagnant or decreasing, these factors address the barriers that impede women from going into radiology residencies. “Identifying such trends is important as it provides a better understanding of the etiology for an overall lack of gender diversity within the field,” write the researchers. “Furthermore, it may lead to closing the gender gap in radiology.”