A gender comparison of motivations for seeking leadership positions among gastroenterologists

Published:September 13, 2019DOI:

      Background and Aims

      A gender gap exists in leadership positions in gastroenterology. However, individual motivations for seeking leadership positions within the gastroenterology community among men and women have not been explored. The primary aim of this study was to determine whether motivations for pursuing and attaining leadership positions in gastroenterology differ by gender.


      A 20-question survey was created by the authors and shared with gastroenterologists electronically via a social media group (Facebook) and emails gathered through publicly available society websites and professional and social contacts. Data gathered from the survey included demographics, practice characteristics, presence of spouse or domestic partner, past and present leadership positions, motivations for pursuit of leadership positions, and reasons for lack of desire for a leadership position.


      The survey was sent to 981 gastroenterologists (679 women, 302 men). The overall response rate was 21.4% (n = 210) (20.9% for women, 22.5% for men). Overall, 41% of respondents (84 of 206) currently hold a leadership position, including more males than females (52% vs 36%, respectively; P = .03). However, among those who completed their training in the past 5 years, more women than men hold a current leadership role (25% vs 6%; P = .11). Other factors associated with currently holding a leadership position included age and years since completion of training, practice type, full-time status, and having a spouse who is not a physician. The positive factors of leadership cited most frequently were (1) ability to effect change, (2) furthering the goals of the organization, and (3) opportunity for career advancement. The negative factors cited most frequently were increased workload and decreased time for personal life. These reported positive and negative factors were similar for male and female respondents. Forty-nine respondents did not desire a leadership position now or in the future. The most common reason cited was lack of interest in the responsibilities, long hours, or stress that accompanies a leadership position (22 of 42, 52%). The second most common reason was that respondents were too busy at home or work to take on the extra responsibilities.


      A gender gap in gastroenterology leadership exists but is closing. There is fairly equal representation of men and women in leadership positions among those who completed training in the last 5 years. Many gastroenterologists are motivated for a leadership position and at the same time, many qualified individuals do not desire a leadership position because of factors that affect work-life balance. Ongoing efforts to engage motivated individuals into leadership positions and to revise the nature of leadership positions may allow for a larger talent pool from which to recruit.
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