To what extent might the lack of increased representation of women in higher ranks on surgical faculties and in leadership be due to relationship network differences and lack of sponsorship/inclusion of women?
Explore This IssueJanuary 2022
Higher academic rank can be predicted by male gender, tenure, and number of meaningful relationships; gender homophily exists in collaboration networks among academic surgeons and is associated with impeded female career advancement.
BACKGROUND: The number of women entering medical school is increasing, yet female representation in higher academic ranks and leadership roles is not. Current strategies applied toward advancing women suggest poor success. Understanding organizational network differences and how they impact professional inclusion may offer solutions to gender-related career advancement barriers.
STUDY DESIGN: Prospective observational study.
SETTING: Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, N.Y.
SYNOPSIS: Researchers analyzed email communication log data of 345 full-time faculty (34.7% women) from all surgical departments in an academic medical center. Women represented 45.2% of the assistant professor group and 9.8% of the full professor group. In otolaryngology, women represented 20.8% of full-time faculty and 44% of assistant professor faculty. There were zero female associate professors or full professors, and six and seven male associate professors and full professors, respectively. Women had fewer relationships than men (mean 10.6 versus 12.7) and fewer relationships with men than did men (mean 5.3 versus 8.3). Number of relationships with women was similar for both genders. Gender homophily was more pronounced at higher academic ranks: Men, compared to women, had 157% more network relationships to other men in lower ranks. Multivariable regression models suggested direct association of these gender differences in relationships with more women in lower academic ranks. Authors concluded that, since larger percentages of men hold higher academic ranks and leadership positions, gender homophily in collaborative networks among surgical faculty places women at a disadvantage. Study limitations included reliance on email and the use of only one academic center.
CITATION: Suurna MV, Leibbrandt A. Underrepresented women leaders: lasting impact of gender homophily in surgical faculty networks. Laryngoscope. 2022;132:20-25.