Women constituted about one-third of faculty positions in academic medical oncology (MO), radiation oncology (RO), and surgical oncology (SO) programs, however, the proportion of women in leadership positions was even lower, according to a recent study.

“Overcoming the gender discrepancy specifically in academic oncology leadership may have a sustained and meaningful impact by increasing role models who can inspire graduating residents to pursue academic positions,” the researchers wrote.

The cross-sectional study evaluated program websites from October 2018 to June 2019. All faculty from 265 of 273 accredited MO, RO, and SO programs were included. The researchers acknowledged that gathering the information from websites was one limitation to the study.

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They found that of the 6030 faculty, 35.9% were women. For each category, women represented 37.1%, 30.7%, and 38.8% for MO, RO, and SO, respectively.

Looking specifically at chair positions, these numbers decreased. There was at least 1 woman in a leadership position in 47.9%, 33%, and 18.5% of MO, RO, and SO programs, respectively.

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MO and RO programs that had 1 or more woman in a leadership position had a higher percentage of women faculty compared with programs without at least 1 female leader. However, the same was not true for SO programs.

“Similar low and disproportionate rates of women chairs are seen in other academic surgical specialties, including neurosurgery, otolaryngology, and plastic surgery,” the researchers noted.

“Gender equality is one of the most important measures of health and health inequalities in our time,” the researchers wrote. “Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health also has the potential to lead to substantial health, social, and economic gains.”


Chowdhary M, Chowdhary A, Royce TJ, et al. Women’s representation in leadership positions in academic medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology programs.JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(3):e200708.