How to Encourage More Women to Become Radiologists

January 26, 2012

If those of us who are in positions to evaluate and review hiring policies do not take a significant role in ensuring a level playing field then we are truly to blame.

How can we encourage more women to become radiologists?

It was a question posed at AJR’s recent quarterly Masters of Radiology panel discussion hosted by Drs. Howard P. Forman and Marcia C. Javitt. The panel reviews topics of importance in the field of radiology and share their insight into how these issues are shaping or will shape the future of the specialty.

I have two daughters and have always been aggressively pushing them into situations where they can talk with and become acquainted with women at the top of their field. They have met leaders in radiology, leaders in business, as well as leaders in the church - areas where women frequently do not have significant leadership roles.

The real issue is that the individuals at the top of radiology are largely responsible for the lack of women in radiology. When I joined my radiology group, two out of about 35 radiologists were women. The reason for this lack was twofold. Over the years, there was a relative lack of female candidates and a not atypical, unspoken and unwritten concern that hiring women radiologists would adversely affect scheduling and coverage.

Where I had a chance to affect policies in hiring, I spoke in favor of hiring women and sought the kind of top radiologist candidates are practice was looking for. With that type of view on hiring my group made significant strides in finding and hiring more women.

I agree with some of the comments made that in general, to get to the top of any organization or group, volunteerism and hard work is required. However ensuring that women are in the field is the first step towards getting women into leadership roles.

To increase the number of qualified female candidates, first we need to encourage more female medical students to apply for radiology residencies. We need to ensure that radiology residencies are reviewed and seen as welcoming places to learn and grow in this field not only for women candidates but for all candidates. Next, we need to make certain the incorrect and over simplified stereotypes of women as less focused on career and business and more focused on family and children, are removed as a stumbling block. Finally, we need to institutionalize fairness in the selection process and remove the biases that have crept into the system over the years.

Once the changes noted above are in process, if those of us who are in positions to evaluate and review hiring policies do not take a significant role in ensuring a level playing field - and this does not include the worst components of affirmative action where better qualified candidates are put at a disadvantage in order to "level the playing field" - then we are truly to blame. And, as I have said, the radiologists at the top of radiology bear the greatest responsibility and burden for ensuring a truly fair, even and level playing field.

For me, the bottom line is this: I believe that most of the time people are born to lead, it is within them to do this; however, these people also need the opportunity to follow this internal drive to pursue leadership. The current leaders in radiology need to promote and provide opportunities for leadership to all those who wish to participate regardless of gender, age, disability, race or color, religion or sexual orientation.

We know what we need to do, let's stop talking and start today!