Gender, Professional Experiences, and Personal Characteristics of Academic Radiation Oncology Chairs: Data to Inform the Pipeline for the 21st Century

Academic Article


  • Purpose: Understanding the pathways and gateways to leadership and challenges faced by individuals in such roles can inform efforts to promote diversity and equity. We sought to describe the professional experiences and personal characteristics of academic radiation oncology (RO) chairs and to evaluate whether differences exist by gender. Methods and Materials: Anonymous surveys were distributed to 95 chairs of RO departments during the 2016 annual meeting of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiation Oncology Programs. The surveys included 28 closed-ended questions and the Leadership Practices Inventory. Results were analyzed by gender using χ2 tests, rank-sum, and t tests (significance P <.05). Results: A total of 72 chairs responded (61 male, 10 female, 1 declined to identify gender) for a response rate of 76%. There were no significant gender differences in age, academic rank, publications, or prior leadership positions held at the time of the first chair appointment, but female respondents held significantly greater total direct funding from extramural grants than their male counterparts (median, $1.89 million [interquartile range, $0.5-$5 million] vs $0.25 million [interquartile range, $0-$1.0 million]; P =.006). Women were more likely to have spouses employed outside the home at time of their first chair appointment than men were, with a trend toward women experiencing greater difficulty relocating. Men and women identified budgeting and resource allocation as their greatest professional challenges. There were no gender differences in the Leadership Practices Inventory–identified leadership domains or professional goals. Conclusions: Female RO chairs are as equally qualified as men in terms of productivity or leadership skills, but they face distinct challenges in the context of a gender-structured society. The observation of higher grant funding among women at the time of chair appointment suggests a possible need for interventions such as unconscious bias training to ensure that selection processes do not unnecessarily hold women to a higher standard.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Beeler WH; Griffith KA; Jones RD; Chapman CH; Holliday EB; Lalani N; Wilson E; Bonner JA; Formenti SC; Hahn SM
  • Start Page

  • 979
  • End Page

  • 986
  • Volume

  • 104
  • Issue

  • 5