Changes in the Representation of Women and Minorities in Biomedical Careers

Myers, Samuel L. Jr PhD; Fealing, Kaye Husbands AM, PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31826d7189
Diversity and Inclusion in Academic Medicine

Purpose: To examine how efforts and policies to increase diversity affect the relative representation of women and of minority groups within medicine and related science fields.

Method: The authors of this report used data from the Current Population Survey March Supplement (a product of the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics that tracks race, ethnicity, and employment) to compute the representation ratios of persons employed in biology, chemistry, and medicine from 1968 to 2009 (inclusive). They derived the representation ratios by computing the ratio of the conditional probability that a member of a given group is employed in a specific skilled science field to the overall probability of employment in that field. Their analysis tested for differences in representation ratios among racial, gender, and ethnic groups and across time among those employed as biologists, chemists, and medical doctors.

Results: Representation ratios rose for white females, whose percentage increase in medicine was larger than for any other racial/ethnic group. The representation ratios fell for Hispanics in biology, chemistry, and medicine. The representation ratio rose for African Americans, whose highest percentage increase occurred in biology. Asian Americans, who had the highest representation ratios in all three disciplines, saw a decline in their relative representation in medicine.

Conclusions: The authors have demonstrated that all groups do not benefit equally from diversity initiatives and that competition across related fields can confound efforts to increase diversity in medicine.

Author Information

Dr. Myers is Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and member of the graduate faculty, Applied Economics PhD Program, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Husbands Fealing is professor, Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Center, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and senior study director, National Research Council, Washington, DC.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Myers, 261 Humphrey Center, 301 19th Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55455; telephone: (612) 625-9821; fax: (612) 625-3513; e-mail:

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges