June 25, 2018

ABA Gender Study Shows Steady Gains for Women, More Work to be Done

Raleigh, N.C., (June 25, 2018)  Anesthesia & Analgesia recently published an American Board of Anesthesiology study, titled “Gender Distribution of the American Board of Anesthesiology Diplomates, Examiners, and Directors (1985-2015),” demonstrating that the representation of women increased steadily among board-certified physicians, examiners and board directors between 1985 and 2015.

The percentage of female examiners lagged the percentage of board-certified women, during the study period. However, the percentage of women directors was generally higher than that of women examiners, based on the average time it took for diplomates to become oral examiners (10 years) and for oral examiners to become board directors (seven years). Historically, directors were elected from among the pool of oral examiners.

“We have made significant progress as a board; although, we recognize we have more work to do to achieve gender equity among our examiner pool,” said Deborah J. Culley, M.D., secretary of the board and one of the study’s authors. “One reason for the disparity is the lack of women role models in leadership positions, who can nurture future leaders. It’s important for female physicians to seek out mentors and for leaders to identify talented women anesthesiologists to help develop their leadership potential.”

The percentage of newly certified women diplomates increased from 15 to 38 percent between 1985 and 2015 with an average annual increase of 0.74 percent. The percentage of female oral examiners grew from 8 to 26 percent with an average annual increase of 0.63 percent. The percentage of women directors elected to the board increased from 8 to 25 percent with an average annual increase of 0.56 percent. The greatest increase occurred between 2009 and 2015.

To qualify to become a board examiner, diplomates must be certified for five years, be clinically active and participating in the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology™ (MOCA®) program. We use a point system to evaluate examiner nominees based on their curriculum vitae and references. Board directors are elected from a certified slate of nominees put forward by the Triple Committee – a joint committee of representatives from the American Board of Anesthesiology, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Medical Association. Directors serve four-year terms and may serve three terms for total of 12 years.

In 2017, our Board of Directors voted unanimously to expand the pool of director nominees to include all board volunteers, with a priority on increasing diversity. Today, we have four female directors on the board – three clinically active anesthesiologists and one public member. We have more than 680 clinically active anesthesiologists serving as volunteers, including 404 examiners. There were 250 examiners at the end of the study period (2015).

One challenge for female physicians cited by the study is that men exceed women in U.S. medical school faculty positions by 2:1, creating a lack of female role models. Increasing the proportion of women on the medical school faculty and in leadership positions within training programs may aid in cultivating future leaders beginning in training.

The authors of the study are Brenda G. Fahy, M.D., M.C.C.M.; Deborah J. Culley, M.D.; Huaping Sun, Ph.D.; Rupa J. Dainer, M.D.; Benjamin P. Lutkoski, M.S.I.S.; and Cynthia A. Lien, M.D.  

ABA Media Contact
Michelle Taylor
Director of Marketing and Communications

About the American Board of Anesthesiology®
Our mission is to advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology. As the certifying body for anesthesiologists since 1938, we partner with physicians to elevate practice standards and foster exceptional patient care. We administer primary and subspecialty certification exams as well as the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology™ (MOCA®) program, which is designed to promote lifelong learning, a commitment to quality clinical outcomes and patient safety. Based in Raleigh, N.C., we are a nonprofit organization and a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Subspecialties (ABMS)