IRVINE — Women are seriously underrepresented among the ranks of physicians at UC Irvine medical school, they receive less pay on average and they are less likely to be promoted to tenured positions, according to a study released Thursday.
"We'd better do something, because the data shows there are problems," said the author of the study, Hoda Anton-Culver, an associate professor of epidemiology at UCI. "There is anxiety on the part of some women who . . . may feel, 'Hey, am I one of those people who are making less? Or am I one of those people who haven't been promoted?' "
The study, conducted by a task force on the status of women at UCI's California College of Medicine, also found little progress in the decade since 1981.
Women made up 10% of the medical college faculty in the fall of 1991, the same percentage as in 1981. Nationally, women represent 25% of the faculty at top-ranked medical schools, the study said. (Campuswide, women represented 16.3% of permanent faculty nationally in 1991.)
There has been some improvement at the medical school in 1992 with the hiring of eight more women, bringing their numbers to 33, or 14% of the 237 permanent faculty, according to Anton-Culver.
But she noted that in the last six years, only one woman was hired at the rank of full professor, versus 11 men. That brings to seven the number of women who are full professors, versus 124 men. And critics of hiring and promotion practices in the College of Medicine note that the lone woman was hired away from UCLA's medical school primarily to be a vice chancellor at UCI.
Women at the associate professor level make on average $9,000 a year less than their male counterparts in the tenure-track ranks, according to the study. Women who have climbed to the next rung of the ladder, tenured associate professor, do only marginally better, earning an average $8,000 less than men in similar jobs.
The medical school dean, Dr. Walter Henry, said he is committed to increasing the number of women faculty, and is devoting resources to further study the reasons why so few women are in the top faculty ranks when women have numbered 50% or more of medical graduates at UCI and elsewhere for at least a decade.
"We know this is something that is happening nationally too, and I don't say that to excuse it," said Henry, a cardiologist. "I believe we need to very aggressively determine as best we can why this is occurring at Irvine."
Some women physicians question that commitment. They say the problem is even worse than the study data suggests when women in the more prestigious posts are counted.
"The numbers say women held 10% of the positions in 1991, but if you look at the coveted tenure and tenure-track . . . positions, women hold less than 5% of these," said Dr. Phyllis Agran, an associate professor of pediatrics at UCI and one of only 11 women associate professors in the tenured ranks, versus 36 men at the medical school. "The statistics speak for themselves; it's clearly sexism. . . . And I regard this as a failure of leadership beginning at the very top of the university and permeating down within all departments in the College of Medicine."
The dearth of women in top medical school positions is not unique to UCI. Even in pediatrics, the field where most women are concentrated, they have not moved up to the top echelons of administrators who can hire, fire and promote.
"Of the 110 or so medical colleges in the country, less than 10 have women as pediatric department chairmen," said Dr. Beverly C. Morgan, a pediatric cardiologist at UCI. "That's pretty outrageous because there certainly have been very highly competent women in the field for years," added Morgan, who has served as chair of UCI's pediatrics department and is believed to be the only woman ever to run a department at the medical college.
Dr. Molly Cooke, an internist at UC San Francisco, agreed: "Among department chairs and deans of medical schools, women are as scarce as hen's teeth."
Cooke was one of the authors of a 1991 study which found that women make up only 9% of the tenure and tenure-track faculty at UC San Francisco, one of the nation's preeminent medical research centers. "What we found is that with the current hiring patterns, it will take more than 100 years to get the number of women in (tenure or tenure-track positions) to 13%," said Cooke, who is an associate clinical professor and not among the tenured faculty.
UCI Vice Chancellor M. Anne Spence said the lack of women in tenured positions is also well known at UCLA, where she worked for 21 years in the medical school until coming to Irvine last March.
Spence said the reasons women aren't better represented among top ranks at medical colleges may well have to do with the time it takes to complete their training.