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Achieving Gender and Social Equality: More Than Gender Parity Is Needed

Raj, Anita PhD, MS; Kumra, Tina MD, MPH; Darmstadt, Gary L. MD, MS; Freund, Karen M. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002877

In this Perspective, the authors review Association of American Medical Colleges data on gender parity and intersectionality, consider the literature on gender parity in academic medicine and the underlying gender norms that explain these statistics, and offer recommendations for moving past indicators of parity to achieve gender and social equality.

Improvements in gender parity among medical school graduates have not translated to gender parity among practicing physicians or medical school faculty, particularly for racial/ethnic minorities. Further, gender parity does not correspond to gender equality, such that gender-based disparities in salaries and advancement persist. In addition, social norms related to traditional gender role expectations reinforce existing biases and lead to sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace.

Building on their analysis of existing data and the literature, the authors offer concrete recommendations to achieve gender equality in academic medicine that not only improve parity but also support policies and practices to address the norms that further bias and discrimination. These recommendations include the collection, monitoring, and open reporting of data on salaries as well as on sex and race/ethnicity; stronger policies related to family leave and sexual discrimination and harassment; and accountability structures to ensure that policies are enforced. While these efforts alone cannot eliminate gender inequalities, academic medicine should be at the forefront of creating a climate in medicine that is supportive of gender equality as part of their larger goal of promoting social equality.

A. Raj is Tata Chancellor Professor of Society and Health, professor of education studies, and director, Center on Gender Equity and Health, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California.

T. Kumra is assistant professor of pediatrics, codirector, Longitudinal Ambulatory Clerkship, and medical director, Remington Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

G.L. Darmstadt is associate dean for maternal and child health and professor of neonatal and developmental medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.

K.M. Freund is professor of medicine and vice chair for faculty affairs and quality improvement, Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Data: The data reported in this article are from the Association of American Medical Colleges and are publicly available.

Correspondence should be addressed to Anita Raj, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093; telephone: (858) 822-0229; email:; Twitter: @AnitaRajUCSD.

Copyright © 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges