Why Are There So Few Women Medical School Deans? Debunking the Myth That Shorter Tenures Drive Disparities

Amy S. Gottlieb, Brita Roy, Jeph Herrin, Louisa W. Holaday, Jasmine Weiss, Michelle C. Salazar, Ngozi Okoli, Nupur Nagarkatti, Jeremy Otridge, Claire Pomeroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Gender disparities among the senior echelons of academic medicine are striking and persistent. The role of medical school dean has been particularly immune to gender diversity, and limited prior research identified women's shorter decanal tenures as a potential driver. The authors assessed gender differences in tenure length of deanships in the current era to elucidate this finding. Method From October 2020 to June 2021, the authors collected information about medical school deanships that were held from January 1, 2006, to June 30, 2020. All schools were members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The authors collected data from online public records and augmented their findings via direct outreach to medical schools. They used time-to-event analyses before and after adjustment for interim vs permanent status of the initial appointment, school ownership (public/private), and school size to assess for gender differences in length of deanship tenure during the study period. The unit of analysis was deanships, and the primary outcome was length of deanships measured in years. Results Authors included data on 528 deanships. Women held 91 (17%) of these terms. Men held the majority of permanent deanships (n = 352 [85%]). A greater percentage of the deanships held by women were interim only (n = 27 [30%]) compared with men (n = 85 [20%]). In unadjusted and adjusted analyses, there were no significant gender differences in length of deanship tenures. Conclusions Analysis of appointments of AAMC-member medical school deans from 2006 to 2020 revealed that women have remained in their deanships as long as their male counterparts. The myth about women deans' shorter longevity should no longer be promulgated. Academic medicine should consider novel solutions to addressing women's persistent underrepresentation in the dean role, including employing the gender proportionality principle used in the business and legal communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


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