Go Red for Women

The month of February was Go Red for Women month sponsored by the American Heart Association to raise awareness about women and heart disease. The journal Circulation published its first-ever Go Red for Women issue and in addition to articles about gender disparities in research and clinical outcomes, they also chose to publish an article entitled, “Sex difference in faculty rank among academic cardiologists in the United States.” The findings of this study mirror a myriad of articles in academic medicine demonstrating that women continue to lag behind men in promotion rates, funding, resources and leadership positions. Just as research into gender disparities in heart disease will enable us to address that issue, so too does research into gender disparities in academic medicine. An accompanying editorial by Molly Carnes, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, describes the complex interplay of factors that perpetuate gender disparities in academia and outlines evidenced-based solutions.

We choose now to share how the DOM is already implementing several of the recommendations highlighted in the editorial. First, Carnes describes the importance of developing processes for transparency and accountability around performance-reward decisions. The DOM salary review and crafting of the compensation model that has been ongoing for the past 18 months are working to do exactly this. With this model in place, faculty can understand the basis of their salary structure and leaders are required to justify supplemental support for individual faculty and address disparities.

Second, Carnes strongly argues for addressing ingrained and subconscious gender schemas that may lead to bias in recruiting and hiring, evaluating performance and appointing leaders, through unconscious bias training. Such training has been shown to increase personal awareness of bias, as well as motivation, self-efficacy and action to promote gender equity. The DOM is currently performing unconscious bias training for all departmental, nursing and administrative leadership, departmental search committees, and fellowship and divisional directors who are themselves diverse and work with diverse populations. Addressing gender disparities, whether related to women’s health or women in academic medicine, will continue to require hard work and commitment. We expect continued success in both areas.

-Rachel Levine, Associate Vice Chair for Women's Careers in Academic Medicine