January 30, 2023

Empowering Female Medical Students in Radiology: Challenges and Opportunities

Cailin O’Connell, BS, MS4, Texas A&M School of Engineering Medicine

Glori Das, BS, BSA, MS2, Texas A&M School of Medicine

Cailin O’Connell, BS, MS4 
Cailin O’Connell, BS, MS4
Glori Das, BS, BSA, MS2 
Glori Das, BS, BSA, MS2

Women comprise more than 50% of the medical student population. However, per the 2022 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Report on Residents, women make up only 27.7% of diagnostic radiology residents, a number which has not considerably changed since the 1980s.1,2 From difficulties finding female mentors to misconceptions about the field, there are several reasons gender diversity continues to be a challenge in radiology. However, there are various solutions that can encourage female medical students to consider a career in this rewarding field.

Identifying a female radiology mentor can be challenging for medical students. A so-called “leaky pipeline,” the number of women in academic radiology positions at the faculty level, is only 24%; a meager 9% of leadership academic positions are held by women.3 This limits the availability of female mentors for students, which creates a feedback loop of decreasing female engagement in radiology.4 There is a significant positive correlation between first and last author gender in radiology literature, pointing to the importance of having senior female radiology academics usher in newer generations.5 Additionally, one study of 16 Canadian Diagnostic Radiology residency programs found a strong positive correlation between the proportion of female radiology faculty and female residents attending an individual program.6 Retaining female faculty is an essential piece of the puzzle in increasing medical student interest. Initiatives such as addressing recruitment bias, ensuring fair parental leave policies and implementing protections for pregnant and breastfeeding women are vital to maintaining the female academic workforce.7

Misconceptions about the field may also influence a woman’s decision to pursue radiology. In a study of Canadian medical students, perceived physics requirements and a lack of patient acknowledgment deter women from radiology.8 The American Association of Women in Radiology (AAWR) puts forth considerable effort to help debunk some of these myths with its “Mythbusters” campaign on Instagram and Twitter. This campaign addressed many topics such as: the family friendliness of radiology, including an AAWR initiative for increased parental leave in residency; the role of AI as a tool for radiologists rather than a replacement; and the patient contact available in various radiology subspecialties.9 Future studies should explore how effective such efforts are at bringing women into radiology.

Networking programs, social media and pre-clerkship radiology education are all opportunities to enhance female recruitment. There is evidence highlighting the efficacy of Women in Radiology outreach efforts at increasing female students’ interest.10 Nationally, the AAWR has a mentorship program that connects students to mentors and holds events at the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) annual meeting. Social media represents an opportunity to connect students to role models in the field and provide education on the day-to-day life of a radiologist. The creation of hashtags,11 YouTube videos from creators like Dr. Yasha Gupta and Instagram/Twitter accounts from several different creators are a treasure trove of representation and information. Additionally, Vidal et al. (2011) found in a study of predominantly female French medical students that a radiology course in the first and second years of medical school significantly increases interest in the specialty.12 Such an addition to American pre-clerkship curricula may help close the gender gap in radiology.

Retaining female faculty, creating mentorship opportunities, utilizing social media and increasing pre-clinical exposure are key factors in improving female medical student engagement in radiology. With the adoption of these initiatives by diversity-minded programs, we hope for a more equitable gender landscape in radiology in the years to come.


ACR Resources

Pioneering a New Path for Radiology
Rebranding Radiology



  1. Adham, S., Rybicki, F.J., Mahoney, M.C., Yong-Hing, C.J., Khosa, F. Analysis of Gender Disparity in US and Canadian Radiology Residency Programs. Curr Probl Diagn Radiol. 2022;51(1):21–24.
  2.  Table B3. Number of Active Residents, by Type of Medical School, GME Specialty, and Gender. AAMC. Accessed Jan. 3, 2023. https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/students-residents/interactive-data/report-residents/2022/table-b3-number-active-residents-type-medical-school-gme-specialty-and-gender
  3. Weigel, K.S., Kubik-Huch, R.A., Gebhard, C. Women in radiology: why is the pipeline still leaking and how can we plug it? Acta Radiol Stockh Swed 1987. 2020;61(6):743–748.
  4. Nwoke, C. Radiology Residency Programs Would Benefit from Better Female Representation. The American Board of Radiology.
  5. Yun, E.J., Yoon, D.Y., Kim, B., et al. Closing the Gender Gap: Increased Female Authorship in AJR and Radiology. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2015;205(2):237–241.
  6. Lawle,y M., Dobson, J., Heelan, F., Manos, D. Gender Distribution of Faculty Is Strongly Correlated With Resident Gender at Canadian Radiology Residency Programs. Can Assoc Radiol J. 2022;73(3):486–490.
  7. Spalluto, L.B., Arleo, E.K., Lewis, M.C., Oates, M.E., Macura, K.J.. Addressing Needs of Women Radiologists: Opportunities for Practice Leaders to Facilitate Change. RadioGraphics. 2018;38(6):1626–1637.
  8. Zener, R., Lee, S.Y., Visscher, K.L., Ricketts, M,. Speer, S., Wiseman, D. Women in Radiology: Exploring the Gender Disparity. J Am Coll Radiol. 2016;13(3):344–350.e1.
  9. Goodyear, A., Merfeld, E., Hu, J.Y., et al. Dispelling myths: The case for women in radiology and radiation oncology. Clin Imaging. 2022;85:55–59.
  10. Kamel, S.I., Itani M., Leschied, J.R., Ladd, L.M., Porter, K.K.. Establishing a Women-in-Radiology Group: A Toolkit From the American Association for Women in Radiology. Am J Roentgenol. 2021;217(6):1452–1460.
  11. Retrouvey, M., Keefe, B., Kotsenas, A., McGinty, G., Patel, A.K. Women in Radiology: Creating a Global Mentorship Network Through Social Media. J Am Coll Radiol JACR. 2018;15(1 Pt B):229–232.
  12. Vidal, V., Jacquier, A., Giorgi, R., et al. La radiologie vue par les étudiants. J Radiol. 2011;92(5):393–404.