Although the conversations may be difficult, residency program leadership must do its part to elevate the voices of female trainees, a crucial step in ensuring gender-based equality in healthcare spaces.

A recent article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine provided an overview of steps taken at one medical residency program to address these disparities.

Lisa S. Rotenstein, MD, MBA, and colleagues wrote about Dr Rotenstein’s experience assessing the gender disparity in program-wide “shout out” emails congratulating residents on recent publications. Between June 2017 and January 2018, just 16.7% of “shout-out” emails mentioned the accomplishments of a female resident, despite women comprising 47% of the student body. Per efforts from the authors and their colleagues, the residency program recently developed a systematic procedure to identify and recognize the work of female students appropriately. As a result, shout-outs sent between January and May of 2018increased to 42%, a figure more appropriately reflecting the gender ratio of publishing authors.

Dr Rotenstein and colleagues emphasized that this situation is reflective of the existing biases against women in medicine. Data show that women in the medical field are frequently paid less than their male colleagues and are less likely to become full professors. Additionally, women are less likely to advocate for their achievements and have poorer perceptions of their work quality compared with men. To address these issues, the authors have begun efforts to encourage self-promotion among the female trainees in their program.

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Finally, the authors stressed the importance of “intentionality” in promoting equity. Although their email initiative required greater administrative effort, it allowed the work of female trainees to be recognized in their community. Similar initiatives will require additional commitment and effort from residency programs, the authors said, but eliminating gender disparities is a worthwhile investment.

Reference

Rotenstein LS, Berman RA, Katz JT, Yialamas MA. Making the voices of female trainees heard [published online July 17, 2018]. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.7326/M18-1118