Little gender diversity at School of Medicine

Photo by Rachel Kubi.

Female faculty at the School of Medicine still have a long journey to full equality, deputy dean Carolyn Slayman and other administrators say.

Yale’s medical faculty faces the problem of limited gender diversity. According to a 2010 School of Medicine faculty count, women comprise 40.4 percent of the school’s 2,350 total faculty members and only 35 percent of the 1,242 professors. But administrators are seeking to increase these percentages by applying new recruitment practices to the search for new employees, including the current effort to hire a new chair of pediatrics. While some professors said motherhood and the historically low numbers of female medical students prevent females from ascending to higher level positions within medical schools, female professors said the trend is indicative of a wider long-term cultural bias.

“There are studies that show a culture of exclusion,” School of Medicine dean Robert Alpern said of the culture at many medical schools. “That men tend to run things and they don’t include women in the ‘old boys club.’”


The first female medical students were admitted to Yale in 1916 only after economics professor Henry Farnam 1874 GRD 1876 wrote to the president requesting the addition of female bathrooms in the medical school, said genetics and therapeutic radiology professor Susan Baserga ’80 GRD ’84 MED ’88. A generous donation by Farnam funded the entire project and ultimately allowed his daughter, Louise Farnam MED ’20, to graduate in 1920.

Since then, the numbers of female medical students and lower-level medical faculty members have increased to match the number of men.

During the first few years of female presence on the medical campus, “the old boys club” still dominated, said genetics and therapeutic radiology professor Susan Baserga ’80 GRD ’84 MED ’88, who has published two articles on the subject in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.


Women’s path to medical education is simpler now.

According to The School of Medicine’s student admission statistics, the graduating class of 2010 was made up of 49 percent females, increasing from 29 percent in 1980.

But the medical faculty has still not achieved the same equality.

A 2009 School of Medicine report shows that numbers of females decline as faculty members move up the ranks: 42 percent of medical junior faculty, including assistant professors and non-tenured associate professors, are female, while only 20 percent of senior, tenured faculty are women at the School of Medicine, Slayman said.

Alpern explained that the school’s history of inequality in admissions is still affecting the number of high-level female medical administrators, Alpern said.

“In the 1970s when I went to medical school, about 10 percent of my class were women,” Alpern said. “Now it is 50 percent women, so a lot of people who are trained and could end up on faculty are growing with time.”

Since 2009, the medical school has required at least one member of every recruitment committee to receive diversity training, four administrators said. The training is intended to sensitize recruiters to any bias they might naturally hold against females or minorities.

“We all carry our own ideas of what we think an academic citizen looks like,” Baserga said. “If you’re not asking yourself those things all the time, then you may be bringing [bias]. You almost have to actively work against it.”

To further increase diversity, Alpern said Provost Peter Salovey allows the School of Medicine to select up to five women and minorities for senior faculty positions without seeking the Provost’s approval for each candidate — usually, the provost makes the final decision regarding upper level faculty recruitment. These “five slots” expedite faculty diversification, Alpern said.


The biggest impediment to gender diversity is faculty retention, said Mary Hu, the School of Medicine’s director of institutional planning and communication.

Baserga said female faculty occasionally leave the university because their partners find work elsewhere or because of the difficulty they face balancing professional work and raising a family — a dilemma that frequently plagues young junior faculty members.

The School of Medicine is not blind to these problems.

Yale’s human resources department posts academic job listings to help faculty spouses who work in higher education find employment in the New Haven area, Director of Faculty Development and Equity Linda Bockenstedt said. The School of Medicine also expands the length of a faculty member’s tenure if he or she has a child while working at Yale, allowing the new parent to spend more time at home, Alpern said.

“It may take women a little longer to come up to promotion to associate professor, and it may be related to childbearing issues,” Bockenstedt said. “We have to work on retaining them and helping them through the critical years when life is difficult.”

But other female members of faculty leave for reasons unrelated to family, professors said.

Last year pediatric department chair Margaret Hostetter — one of three female department chairs at the medical school — left Yale to work for a Cincinnati medical school, Slayman said. The transition was a wise career choice for Hostetter, Slayman added, because the Cincinnati pediatric facility is larger than Yale’s and houses more faculty in Hostetter’s specialty.

Hostetter’s departure has given Yale’s pediatric department the chance to advance another woman to a senior rank, and the pediatrics chair search committee is considering many well-qualified female candidates, Alpern said.

Hostetter’s tale is not unique.

Bockenstedt said medical schools constantly compete for the most talented female medical professionals because the lack of gender diversity is a nationwide problem.

But recruiting female faculty from other medical schools does nothing to increase the overall number of female high-level administrators in the medical profession, both Hu and Bockenstedt said.

Baserga said the medical school needs to accelerate its efforts to increase the number of female faculty members.

“That’s what freaks me out,” she said. “Things we were working on in the 1980s are still going on today.”

The School of Medicine consists of 28 different departments, of which only two departments are led by women.

Correction: November 3, 2010

An earlier version of this article contained several errors. First, it incorrectly stated the total number of female faculty at the School of Medicine. Women comprise 40.4 percent of the school’s 2,350 total faculty members. The article also incorrectly suggested that 25 percent of the School of Medicine’s Class of 1980 was female — the correct figure is 29 percent. Finally, the article misspelled Cincinnati and the name of previous pediatrics department chair Margaret Hostetter. The News regrets these errors.


  • River Tam

    “Gender diversity” as a euphemism for women. Unbelievable.

    I am not a “diverse gender”. I am a woman. I also frankly do not care much if there are more or less women teaching me than there were X years ago. Are the most qualified people being hired? Am I learning from the best minds possible?

    Is it possible that women are more likely to use their MD to become practicing physicians rather than professors? That would make sense to me – all the people I know at Yale who are interested in becoming professors happen to be male. Are women overrepresented in some sub-specialties and underrepresented in others? Again, would make sense – female premeds I know seem more tightly clustered around certain specialties.

    This piece is short on facts and long on assumptions.

  • RexMottram08

    Summers was right….

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Give it up — or, at least, give it time. Demography = destiny:

    [**Failing Boys**][1]

    For Harold Reiter the tipping point was the entering class of **2002**.

    As the new chair of admissions at McMaster University’s medical school, he took one look at the **proportion of women admitted** – a whopping **76.9 per cent** – and wondered what had happened to the men.

    [**Doctoring Admissions Standards**][2]

    Medical planners reportedly worry about a looming labor shortage caused by women doctors’ tendency to work fewer hours than men, at least during the child-rearing years. Education experts also fear that female majorities will make the medical profession unattractive to men… [B]ecause medical schools seem to want to maintain a gender balance in enrollment, **men reportedly have an easier time getting in despite apparently lower grades**.

    **[Where Are the Men][3]?**

    “The Trend is Clear”

    Everybody wants to know where all the men have gone. *The Washington Post* calls their disappearance the “question that has grown too conspicuous to ignore,” and *USA Today* notes “universities fret about how to attract males as women increasingly dominate campuses.”

    **Females now outnumber males by a four to three ratio in American colleges**, a difference of almost two million students. Men earn only 43% of all college degrees. Among blacks, two women earn bachelor’s degrees for every man. Among Hispanics, only 40 percent of college graduates are male. Female high school graduates are 16% more likely to go to college than their male counterparts.

    **[Designated Scholarships Overwhelmingly Favour Women][4]**

    Numbers compiled by, a free database listing 49,000 scholastic prizes offered in the country by colleges, universities, corporations and other private organizations, show **976** scholarships are designated *exclusively* **for women** – a number f**ive times greater** than the 192 prizes earmarked for men.


  • Yale12

    RexMottram, what in the world are you talking about? You seriously believe that there is an intrinsic difference in science aptitude between men and women? If so, I feel very, very sorry for you…and also would like to point out, again, the ridiculousness of the statement that “most of [the women’s center’s] battles are already won” and “all of us agree on gender equality,” given what you just said.

  • River Tam

    As a female scientist, I think it’s funny that we refuse to look for a scientific basis for the the difference between male and female participation in the sciences.

  • Yale12

    We do … studies show that when girls are asked to specify their gender on math exams, they do much worse. It’s called psychology.

  • RexMottram08


    The core of Summers conclusion was not differences in aptitude. Go read before you run your mouth.

  • River Tam

    > We do … studies show that when girls are asked to specify their gender on math exams, they do much worse. It’s called psychology.

    Psychological studies don’t prove causation. Not even close.

    You know how I know this?

    I’m a female scientist.

  • wtf

    Summers stated that there was more variation in mens’ aptitudes for math/science than for women. So while there are more men higher up on the bell curve, there are also more men at the bottom of the bell curve. Women are more tightly clustered around the middle, which probably explains why there are more women than men earning college degrees; a higher concentration of women versus men are capable of producing college-level work (which I’ll take to be the mean of 100 in a standard bell curve), but the men who are producing college-level work (those above 100) are doing it better than the women. Thus more women than men in college, but more men than women superstar academics. This might be why there are more male faculty at the School of Medicine but more female medical students overall (as surely the majority of medical students go on to be practicing physicians as opposed to academics).

  • penny_lane

    River Tam-

    Stereotype threat is a proven phenomenon. Look it up. Based on your comments on other articles, you don’t know very much about psychology, which gives you no authority to comment on its validity.

  • RexMottram08

    Psychology! Kneel before its greatness!

  • krbp

    As a female scientist, I do not find myself demanding equality – rather, equity is the way I’d like to go. When we do experiments, we wear gloves to protect ourselves. My male colleagues wear extra large size gloves. My hands don’t fit into anything larger than medium size. Equality would dictate that I would have to wear those ridiculously large gloves, whereas equity would allow me to have gloves that are best suited for me.

    Gender equity is something to strive for – but not just for women. What about transgender individuals? Is “diversity” a good way to describe “equity”?

    Since the “addition of female restrooms” was the key to admitting women into the school of medicine, one can truly say that “equality” did not mean “equity,” because, really, what woman would want to use a urinal.

  • River Tam

    > Stereotype threat is a proven phenomenon. Look it up. Based on your comments on other articles, you don’t know very much about psychology, which gives you no authority to comment on its validity.

    There is no such thing as a “proven” phenomenon and your use of that word indicates that not only do you not have any understanding of basic epistemology (read some Popper), but that you also swallow wholesale every theory that you hear in intro psych.

    Psychology is not a science. It is a social science, like economics, anthropology, or Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. You cannot “prove” theories in these disciplines, even by the epistemological standards of physics, astronomy, biology, or chemistry, which themselves have much less rigorous standards than mathematical proofs.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Rachel Carson

    Marie Curie

    Jane Goodall

    Florence Nightingale

  • penny_lane

    River Tam- You’re right; that was the wrong word to use. However, you’re using my semantic error to distract from my real point; not to counter it. There are hundreds of studies with significant results supporting the existence of stereotype threat. Eventually, you have to stop withholding judgment and decide that that means something. (Also, my misuse of the word “prove” has no logical implications regarding whether or not I am able to examine a theory critically. That was simply an assumption on your part.)

    The only hard and fast category for psychology is “behavioral science.” Much of the field falls squarely within the realm of biology, which you yourself have dubbed a “real” science. I’m sure someone is already working on describing the neurological mechanisms behind stereotype threat.

    krbp- Are you really trying to say that when Thomas Jefferson said that “all men are created equal” he meant that they all can and should wear the same size gloves? Give me a break. That’s not what anyone means by equality and you know it.