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Despite constituting nearly half of all medical school graduates in recent years, women comprise 28% of the membership of the American Society of Anesthesiology and 18% of academic pain medicine physicians.1 2 Compared with pediatric anesthesiology, men comprise 57.4% of the field but among pediatric anesthesiologists 35 years of age and younger, women comprise 58.6% of practitioners.3 The lack of speaker representation at national meetings may impede the academic progression of women anesthesiologists and pain medicine specialists.4–7 Thus, the aim of this retrospective study was to examine the number of women speakers at the annual meetings of two pain medicine specialty societies.
The Mayo Institutional Review Board determined this project was exempt from review. All data were collected from publicly available annual meeting catalogs of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) and American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine’s (ASRA) annual pain medicine meetings from 2012 to 2019. Similar to our previous work,2 abstract sessions, poster presentations, workshops, non-continuing medical education sessions, and problem-based learning discussions were excluded, as these were unlikely to be invited presentations. The unit of analysis was speaker slot; thus, if a speaker participated in two different lectures during a meeting, the participation was recorded as two separate speaker slots. All speakers were categorized as a physician, doctoral level psychologist, or other professional degree. A binary gender identity was assumed based on name and images when available by public Internet searches.
Categorical data were summarized and compared using the chi-square (χ2) test . Logistic regression was performed as test of trend for proportion of women speaker slots from 2012 to 2019. All analyses were performed using R 3.5.0 (R Core Team, 2018). A p value of less than <0.05 was considered significant.
A total of 1475 speaker slots were identified and 257 (17.4%) were staffed by women. At each annual meeting, women speaker slots ranged from 1 to 36 (1.1% to 42.0%) (table 1).
From 2012 to 2019, women comprised 17.4% of speaker slots at the AAPM and ASRA annual pain medicine meetings. When compared with men speaker slots, women speaker slots were less likely to be physicians or speakers in single-speaker sessions. However, no significant differences were observed in the proportion of women occupying single-speaker slots compared with participating in multi-speaker panels. The test of trend suggests an overall statistically significant increase in women speaker slots for both meetings from 2012 through 2019.
The gender distribution of AAPM and ASRA members were not publicly available; however, women comprise 18% of pain medicine physicians in the USA.1 Although the underrepresentation of women in pain medicine is multifactorial,1 6 pain medicine specialty societies, as noted by Doshi and Bicket,1 could help close the gender gap by:
…consider(ing) the talents and contributions of women when recruiting and selecting board members, journal editors, conference speakers, and award recipients.1 (page 5)
The 2019 ASRA meeting had a notable increase in the proportion of women speaker slots from 13.1% in 2018 to 42.0% in 2019. The increase in women speaker slots seems to represent the intentional actions of ASRA leadership as evidenced by a statement that the organization ‘unequivocally embraces an inclusive environment’ and their purposeful removal of men-only panels.8
Our study has limitations. A binary gender identity was assumed for all speakers. However, the assumption that gender identity would be reflected by first name and publicly available images may be inaccurate. The data sources for this study were restricted to US pain societies; thus, further research is needed to elucidate the representation of women speakers at European and other international pain specialty meetings.
A critical role exists for pain medicine specialty societies to engage academic-based and community-based women physicians in all levels of leadership to help drive closure of our profession’s gender gap.
Contributors RNM contributed to study design, data collection, data analysis, and manuscript writing and editing. SMM contributed to study design and manuscript writing and editing. ACSP contributed to study design and manuscript writing and editing. WMH contributed to study design and manuscript writing and editing.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests Dr Moman is a member of the ASRA Resident Section Committee. Dr Moeschler is a Director at Large member of the North American Neuromodulation Society’s Board of Directors, and Board Member of the Association of Pain Program Directors. Dr Pearson is Chair for the ASRA Fall Annual Meeting 2022, President of Women in Anesthesiology, and Social Media Manager for the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation. Dr Hooten was Co-Director of the 2014 AAPM annual meeting and is currently President-Elect of AAPM.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.