The Decanal Divide: Women in Decanal Roles at U.S. Medical Schools

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To test the hypotheses that women in medical school dean-level (decanal) positions occupy lower-rank and more image- and education-focused positions than men, and that state and woman-led schools have more women in decanal positions.


Data were collected on September 10–18, 2016, from Web sites of 136 allopathic, U.S. medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and represented on the roster of accredited MD programs in the United States with full accreditation as of June 22, 2016. Statistical significance of differences between comparison groups was assessed using Student t test with P < .05 indicating significance. Correlation between parameters was determined by Spearman rank correlation test with P < .05 indicating significant correlation.


Findings demonstrate that only 15% (22/149) of deans and interim deans are women, and the prevalence of women in decanal positions decreases with ascending professional rank (R2 = 0.93; P < .05). Women are most prevalent in decanal positions focusing on education and mentoring or institutional public image and least prevalent in those focusing on corporate strategy and policy, finance, or government relations. Schools with a woman as dean or interim dean have a higher percentage of decanal positions occupied by women than those with a man as dean or interim dean (P < .05). State and private medical schools do not differ from one another in this regard.


Gender stereotypes and models appear to continue to drive the number and roles of women in decanal positions.

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