The number of men with mustaches in medical leadership outnumbers the number of women in such positions, a rather unorthodox study in the medical journal BMJ’s light-hearted “Christmas issue” found.
A group of researchers who compared the number of female leaders in the field with mustachioed male leaders at the top 50 medical school funded by the National Institutes of Health found that out of more than 1,000 doctors, women represented just 13% of department leaders, whereas their hairy-lipped male counterparts accounted for 19%.
The proportion of women in medicine has grown over time, from just 9% of medical students in the US in 1960 to almost 50% in the past 15 years, according to the study. But the number of women in academic medicine remains low.
“We believe that every department and institution should strive for a mustache index of greater than or equal to 1,” they wrote. (A mustache index was defined as the proportion of women compared with the proportion of mustaches.)
More ‘staches than women
In the study, dermatology resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Mackenzie Wehner and colleagues compared the ratio of women to mustachioed men across 20 different institutions and 53 medical specialties.
They chose to study mustaches because they’re rare — as few as 15% of men have them, according to some estimates.
The researchers defined a mustache as the “visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip,” including both stand-alone mustaches like the “Copstash Standard” or the “Super Mario” (see the illustration below), as well as beard-and-stash combos like the “Zappa.” Beards that did not include upper lip fuzz, such as “Mutton Chops,” were not considered mustaches.
Wehner and her colleagues found that the proportion of female department leaders varied from 0% to 26% by institution. Among specialities, that proportion varied from 0% (orthopedics and neurosurgery) to 36% (obstetrics and gynecology).
The overall mustache index of all academic medical departments studied was 0.72 — in other words, about 7 women for every 10 mustachioed men.
There are two ways to achieve a mustache ratio closer to 1, the researchers suggested:
- Hiring more women
- Asking men to shave their mustaches
Of course, the second one probably wouldn’t do much to help even out the ratio of men to women. The authors add in a mocking tone: “In addition to being discriminatory, the latter choice could have detrimental effects on workplace satisfaction and emotional well-being of mustachioed individuals.” And this leaves only one option, they write: “to hire, retain, and promote more women.”
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