Women in Medicine: What We Learned from the GRACE Project

Monday, July 11, 2016

UA takes a look at the past inequality between male and female faculty within the College of Medicine — and what’s being done to change the culture.

In 2000, a project at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine documented disparities in salary, rank, track, leadership and perceptions of the campus climate between male and female faculty. This ambitious undertaking was ahead of its time. Now, 16 years later, we take a look back at the findings and lessons learned from the Generating Respect for All in a Climate of Academic Excellence (GRACE) Project.

Where We Were

Kathryn Reed, MD, now head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, served as chair of the executive steering committee for the GRACE Project and says they suspected disparities existed between male and female faculty. “We wanted to ask the question of whether differences could be verified,” Reed says. “We had a hypothesis and we wanted to test it.” A research group was assembled that included Anne Wright, PhD, now senior dean of Faculty Affairs.

The results were striking. The project, which published its results in the peer-reviewed Academic Medicine journal, found the following:

  • On average, women earned $12,777 or 11 percent less than men, after adjusting for rank, track, degree, specialty, years in rank and administrative position.
  • When it came to female faculty, 62 percent were (lower-ranking) assistant professors compared to 31 percent of male faculty.
  • There were zero female department heads.
  • Almost a third of women reported being discriminated against, compared with only 5 percent of men.

According to Reed, the commitment from College of Medicine leadership and the president of UA meant these efforts would not end at documenting the problem. Steps were taken to remedy these disparities, including the appointment of women to key leadership roles.

Where We Are

Today, women head 25 percent of the departments at the College of Medicine – Tucson, including the traditionally male-dominated departments of medicine and surgery. The fact that 45 percent of the college’s faculty now report to department chairs who are women has also made a tremendous impact on the campus culture. And the Women in Academic Medicine organization provides faculty members an opportunity to network, share their medical interests and discuss gender issues.

Read the full results of the GRACE Project here.