In This Section      

Dome - Toward Gender Parity

Dome January/February 2015

Toward Gender Parity

Date: January 7, 2015

Efforts are afoot to advance women in their careers and to cultivate female mentors and leaders.

Paul B. Rothman, M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty, CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Paul B. Rothman, M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty, CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has admitted women since its opening in 1893. The philanthropist Mary Elizabeth Garrett stipulated this condition when she provided the gift that endowed the school. The first female full professor was named in 1917, and since then nearly 200 women have achieved this rank. Yet today, women constitute just 20 percent of full professors in the school of medicine.

While academic medicine has made substantial progress toward gender equality since the 19th century, disparities persist, particularly at the highest rungs. Nationwide, women make up just 19 percent of full professors in basic and clinical sciences, 13 percent of department directors and 16 percent of deans, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The distribution of dollars for biomedical research tells a similar story. While men and women have similar success rates upon applying for research project grants from the National Institutes of Health, men continue to put in more than double the number of applications. Thus, women received just 29 percent of these awards last year.

It is partly a generational effect. Women only began enrolling in medical school in equal numbers to men in 2002. But we need to be proactive about advancing their careers and cultivating women leaders and mentors.

At the school of medicine, we are striving to increase the proportion of women in all dean and department director positions to 30 percent this year.

We are also taking stock of our culture. The environment of a department can strongly influence women faculty’s achievement. According to one measure, a culture conducive to women’s success in academic medicine consists of four dimensions: equal access to opportunities, support for work-life balance, freedom from gender biases and supportive leadership.

To ensure that Johns Hopkins is hitting those targets, the Office of Women in Science and Medicine was established in 2008. In addition to improving the work climate and advocating for female faculty, the office sponsors networking events, leadership training courses, resume review programs and mentoring initiatives.

In concert with the office’s efforts, we are carefully tracking career advancement metrics, such as time to promotion by gender. We are publishing annual faculty salary surveys. And during any search for a new department director, a group of women faculty will have the opportunity to vet the candidates.

As we move forward with our quest for gender parity, we can take pride in what the Johns Hopkins Health System has already achieved in advancing the careers of its women employees. Health systems have a history of engaging more women in leadership roles than their academic peers. Currently, 45 percent of the high-level positions in the Johns Hopkins Health System are held by women. The goal of our Strategic Plan is to do even better. We will strive to ensure that, by 2018, one-half of the health system’s top leaders are women.

To read more insights from Dean Rothman, visit