Invited Commentary on “Addressing Needs of Women Radiologists”
“Given my expertise in this area,” I have been asked to provide commentary on the article, “Addressing Needs of Women Radiologists: Opportunities for Practice Leaders to Facilitate Change,” by Spalluto et al (1). Other than being a woman, I have no expertise here and, in fact, have failed miserably in moving the needle for women in radiology. I am in good company, and Spalluto et al (1) are challenging us with a call to arms. Why? Because despite the ample literature assessing the lack of gender diversity in radiology, the countless plenary session discussions, and the formation of national organizational task forces, the number of women in our field has not changed. “Women are, and have always been, underrepresented in radiology” (1). This is a powerful absolute.
Spalluto and coauthors (1) provide a concise review of this important body of literature. Moreover, they delineate specific action items, beginning with engagement of our medical students through the integration of radiology and radiologists into the medical school curriculum and the creation of radiology interest groups that can be women focused. These authors propose bias awareness programs and suggest ways to make these meaningful. In addition, Spalluto and her colleagues (1) provide an important summary of the FMLA and the 2010 amendment to section 7 of the FLSA. For leadership, a thorough understanding of these laws is imperative, but we cannot stop there. If women—and men—are to thrive in a work environment, leaders must embrace flexible work schedules. As medicine and radiology have transitioned to 24/7 coverage, the opportunities for creative scheduling are actually increasing, and we need to be willing to think beyond the traditional constructs if we are to promote healthy work-life integration. Part-time positions are fulfilling for many productive women and men and provide workforce diversity and depth of expertise, because many early career radiologists as well as those in later career stages are desiring this alternative scheduling. Some universities do not recognize part-time status, but fortunately, this is becoming less common, although tenure challenges remain. Some practices have benefit structures that are cost prohibitive for part-time status. Yes, part-time scheduling is more challenging to manage and, in some cases, is even more costly, but these excuses are shortsighted. Lack of workforce diversity is even more difficult to manage, ensures that a practice will not achieve its full potential, and will be more costly in the end.
I would caution radiology leaders to use this article as a road map for gender diversity and inclusion rather than an à la carte menu for improvement. I would challenge us not to pick and choose but rather to systematically engage around each of the action items of Spalluto et al (1) and, importantly, as a profession, engage students. Yes, we should actively move toward more inclusive work environments, but it cannot stop there because that does not address the core of the issue. It is a zero-sum proposal if we do not enlarge the pipeline. We will simply shift women from one department to another, from one practice to another. We start with medical students, but I would argue that we should start earlier—with our women students in colleges, high schools, and even earlier. Girls and women should know that being a radiologist is one of the most fulfilling and fun careers in the world.
Article HistoryPublished online: Oct 10 2018
Published in print: Oct 2018