ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Bridging the Gender Gap

Women are still vastly underrepresented in radiology. That can be changed through mentorship and other measures that encourage female students to go into the specialty.
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Retaining female faculty, creating mentorship opportunities, using social media as a networking tool, and increasing pre-clinical exposure are key factors in improving female medical student engagement in radiology.

—Cailin O’Connell, BS, MS3, Texas A&M School of Medicine; and Glori Das, BS, BSA, MS2, Texas A&M School of Medicine
March 23, 2023

Women comprise more than 50% of the medical student population. However, according to the 2022 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Report on Residents, women make up only 27.7% of diagnostic radiology residents, a number that 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. Women hold just 24% of academic radiology positions at the faculty level and a meager 9% of academic leadership radiology positions along a so-called “leaky pipeline.”3 This limits the availability of female mentors for students, which creates a feedback loop of decreasing female engagement in radiology.4 Additionally, the first (more junior) and last (more senior) author of a radiology publication are often the same gender.5 With radiology’s significant gender gap, this suggests a hurdle for female trainees who aim to be involved in radiology research.

In a study of 16 Canadian diagnostic radiology residency programs, investigators found programs with more female radiology faculty tend to have more female residents, heavily implying that prospective female radiologists prioritize working with female attendings.6 Therefore, retaining female faculty is an essential piece of the puzzle in increasing medical student interest. To that end, initiatives that maintain the female academic radiology workforce such as addressing faculty recruitment bias, ensuring fair parental leave policies, and implementing protections for pregnant and breastfeeding women are vital to improving the radiology pipeline.7

Misconceptions about the field may also influence a woman’s decision to pursue radiology. As suggested by one study, perceptions about a lack of direct patient contact and additional physics requirements deter women from considering radiology as a specialty.8 To combat these stereotypes, the American Association of Women in Radiology (AAWR) started its “Mythbusters” campaign on Instagram and Twitter (see This campaign addressed 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. It is well documented that women-in-radiology outreach efforts increase female students’ interest.10 Nationally, the AAWR uses a mentorship program that connects students to mentors and holds events at the ACR Annual Meeting. Social media represents an opportunity to expand the mentorship role, connecting students to role models in the field. Hashtags can be used to create a global community of women in radiology.11 Finally, virtual content from creators like RFS Chair Yasha Gupta, MD, a breast imaging fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Instagram/Twitter accounts from women in radiology are inspiring for female students considering this pathway.

From a curricular standpoint, radiology courses in the first and second years of medical school significantly increase interest in the specialty.12 Such an addition to the pre-clerkship curricula may help close radiology’s gender gap. Additionally, the ACR’s Pipeline Initiative for the Enrichment of Radiology (PIER) Internship represents an additional opportunity for women and underrepresented minorities to get involved with radiology during their first year of medical school.

Retaining female faculty, creating mentorship opportunities, using social media as a networking tool, and increasing pre-clinical exposure are key factors in improving female medical student engagement in radiology. While there is more work to be done in understanding why the gender gap persists, with the adoption of these initiatives by diversity-minded programs, we can look forward to a more equitable gender landscape in the years to come.


  1. Adham S, Rybicki FJ, Mahoney MC, Yong-Hing CJ, Khosa, F. Analysis of Gender Disparity in U.S. 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 Feb. 21, 2023. 
  3. Weigel KS, Kubik-Huch RA, 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 blog. Accessed Feb. 21, 2023.
  5. Yun EJ, Yoon DY, Kim B, et al. Closing the Gender Gap: Increased Female Authorship in AJR and Radiology. Am J Roentgenol. 2015;205(2):237–241.
  6. Lawley 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 LB, Arleo EK, Lewis MC, Oates ME, Macura KJ. Addressing Needs of Women Radiologists: Opportunities for Practice Leaders to Facilitate Change. RadioGraphics. 2018;38(6):1626–1637.
  8. Zener R, Lee SY, Visscher KL, 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 JY, et al. Dispelling myths: The case for women in radiology and radiation oncology. Clin Imaging. 2022;85:55–59.
  10. Kamel SI, Itani M, Leschied JR, Ladd LM, Porter KK. 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 AK. Women in Radiology: Creating a Global Mentorship Network Through Social Media. J Am Coll Radiol. 2018;15(1 Pt B):229–232.
  12. Vidal V, Jacquier A, Giorgi R, et al. La radiologie vue par les étudiants. J Am Coll Radiol. 2011;92(5):393–404.

Author Cailin O’Connell, BS, MS3, and Glori Das, BS, BSA, MS2,  Texas A&M School of Medicine