A new study indicates that younger female gynecologic oncologists are less productive scholastically and that is why they are poorly represented in the higher academic ranks compared to male contemporaries.

There are obvious differences in gender make-up in the higher levels of academia. The reason for that is obvious: tenure. More women than ever are choosing to remain at universities but older males are not just going to be fired to achieve gender parity. And academia is far harder on women than the private sector, so women with childbearing and family responsibilities get penalized more than scientists at corporations do.

And in academia, publishing counts for getting grants and tenure-track jobs. However, once they get to the higher levels, their productivity to men is equal, explains Ashley Stuckey, MD, one of the study's authors and a gynecologic oncologist at Women&Infants Hospital, a Care New England hospital. 

The authors examined the publications of 507 academic faculty from 137 teaching programs in the United States. Of these, 42 percent were female and 58 percent male. Examining the number of publications and the number of times the publications were cited, the researchers found that men were twice as productive in the lower academic ranks.

Men and women were more equally productive at the higher rank of professor, with women often more productive later in their careers, across all surgical disciplines. Such lower scholarly productivity, the study indicates, correlates with the disparate numbers of women in advanced academic positions. In gynecologic oncology, only 20.4 percent of department chairs and 29.6 percent of division directors nationwide are female, even though 57.6 percent of faculty was male and 42.4 percent female.

Work-life balanced is the likely culprit, the authors believe. So academia will still need to learn some things from the private sector if they want a shot at keeping the best and brightest among females.

The study "Gender Differences in Scholarly Productivity within Academic Gynecologic Oncology Departments"was recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology