Barriers to Advancement in Academic Medicine: the Perception Gap Between Majority Men and Other Faculty



According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, women comprise 26% of full professors and 19% of medical school department chairs. African American and Latino faculty comprise 4.6% of full professors and 6.9% of department chairs.


Because of the lack of representation of women and racial/ethnic minority faculty at the highest levels of academic medicine, this study examines the perceptions of barriers to advancement by men and women academic medical school faculty of differing races and ethnicities to explore potential differences in perceptions by demographic group.


Semi-structured one-on-one interviews were conducted between July and September 2017.


In order to give all faculty a chance to participate, faculty of all ranks and specialties were recruited from one southeastern medical school to participate in the study.


Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed by 3 members of the research team using an inductive approach to thematic analysis. Participants were organized into 4 groups for analysis—underrepresented in medicine (URiM) women, majority women, URiM men, majority men.

Key Results

Sixty-four faculty consented to participate in the study (56.2% women, 34.4% URiM). Subthemes were grouped under three main themes: Perceptions of Barriers to Advancement of Women Faculty, Perceptions of Barriers to Advancement of African American and Latino Faculty, and Perceptions of the Institutional Climate for Diversity. Majority men tended to voice distinctly different perspectives than the other three demographic groups, with the most notable differences between majority men and URiM women. Majority  men tended to suggest that the advancement of women and URiM faculty was acceptable or getting better, the lack of URiM faculty in leadership was due mainly to pipeline issues, and women choose not to advance to leadership positions.


We found that participant gender and race/ethnicity shaped perspectives of medical school faculty advancement in distinct ways.

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This project was supported through an institutional grant from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lori Brand Bateman PhD.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board for Human Use at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), June 21, 2017, Protocol # 170524006.



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Previous Presentations

Bateman LB. Barriers to Advancement in Academic Medicine: A Qualitative Study of Differing Perceptions Based on Gender and Race/Ethnicity. Division of Preventive Medicine Grand Rounds, March 9, 2020, Birmingham, AL.

Bateman LB, Heider L, Fouad MN. Barriers and Facilitators to Advancement of Underrepresented Minorities and Women in Academic Medicine: Qualitative Findings from a Southeastern Academic Medical Center. UAB 14th Annual Health Disparities Research Symposium, April 18, 2019, Birmingham, AL.

Bateman LB, Heider L, Fouad MN. Barriers and Facilitators to Advancement of Underrepresented Minorities and Women in Academic Medicine: Differing Perceptions Based on Race/Ethnicity and Sex. Southern Sociological Society Annual Meeting, April 10–13, 2019, Atlanta, GA.

Bateman LB, Heider L, Jones E, Fouad MN. Barriers and Facilitators to the Advancement of Women in Academic Medicine: Differing Perspectives Based on Gender and Race/Ethnicity. 2019 Region 5 American Medical Women’s Association, February 15–16, 2019, Birmingham, AL.

Bateman LB, Heider L, Fouad MN. Barriers and Facilitators to the Advancement of Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine: Ethical Implications for the Elimination of Health Disparities. Bioethics Issues in Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, sponsored by The Morehouse School of Medicine/Tuskegee University/University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center Partnership, January 23–25, 2019, Opelika, AL.

Bateman LB, Heider L and Jones E. Diversity and Inclusion Programming in Academic Medicine: An Interactive Development Model. American Association of Medical Colleges Group on Diversity and Inclusion. June 1, 2018,  New Orleans, LA.

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Bateman, L.B., Heider, L., Vickers, S.M. et al. Barriers to Advancement in Academic Medicine: the Perception Gap Between Majority Men and Other Faculty. J GEN INTERN MED (2021).

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  • academic advancement
  • academic medicine
  • underrepresented in medicine
  • women