JOURNAL ARTICLE

Does the Proportion of Women in Orthopaedic Leadership Roles Reflect the Gender Composition of Specialty Societies?

Sharul Saxena, Lisa K Cannada, Jennifer M Weiss
Clinical Orthopaedics and related Research 2019 June 3
31180910

BACKGROUND: Increasing the number of women in surgical subspecialties has been challenging, especially in orthopaedics, in which the percentage of women has remained relatively the same for the past several decades. Certain subspecialties, such as pediatric orthopaedics, have a greater proportion of women than other orthopaedic subspecialties do. Women in leadership roles in a specialty society (for example, on the board of directors) may serve as role models and help attract women to our specialty, leading to increased diversity. As the proportion of women in a specialty society increases, the leadership (board of directors) of the society might reflect the gender composition of that society's membership. It is not known whether gender diversity in orthopaedic societies is reflected in their leadership. QUESTION/PURPOSES: (1) Does the percentage of women members in a specialty society correlate with the percentage of women on its board of directors? (2) Does having a junior position on an orthopaedics subspecialty society's board of directors correlate with an increased percentage of women on its board of directors?

METHODS: We queried the executive directors of each of the 23 societies of the Board of Specialty Societies of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to obtain the number and percentage of women members in each society, the number of women on each society's board of directors, the criteria for becoming a board member, and the presence or absence of junior board members. All 23 societies responded. We supplemented the data by reviewing these societies' bylaws. Society bylaws were studied to determine if the presence of a junior board member affected the percentage of women on its board of directors. We correlated the percentage of women in each society with the percentage of women on that society's board of directors and compared this across the studied societies.

RESULTS: We found a strong correlation between the percentage of women in a society and the percentage of women on the society's board of directors (r = .2333; p = .0495). The subspecialty society with the highest percentage of women (26%), the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, did not have the highest percentage of women on its board of directors (three of 20 members were women, 15%). The subspecialty society with the highest percentage of women on its board of directors, the Orthopaedic Research Society (seven of 16 members, 44%), did not have the highest percentage of women (25%). There was no correlation between presence of a junior board member and increased percentage of women in an orthopaedic society, nor was there a correlation between the presence of a junior board member and percentage of women on the board of directors in a society.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a correlation between the number of women members in an orthopaedic specialty society and the number of women on its board of directors. The correlation is not explained by the presence of a junior member position, which may be inspiring to younger women. Although a correlation exists, we could not predictably match societies with the highest percentage of women members to those with the highest percentage of women on their boards of directors, and vice versa. This study reveals the current percentage of women in orthopaedic specialty societies and the percentage of women in leadership positions. This is the first step towards diversity of gender in orthopaedics.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III, prognostic study.

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