No Sex Bias Seen in ACC 22 Speaker Introductions
Men making speaker introductions at the 2022 annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology were similarly likely to use professional titles regardless of gender, while women making introductions were more likely to use professional titles overall, based on a review of more than 800 videos of last year’s presentations.
“Implicit sex bias in speaker introductions at major medical conferences can foster and drive sex-driven assumptions about the competency of the speaker,” corresponding author Ankur Kalra, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Franciscan Health, Lafayette, Ind., said in an interview. “This is particularly important as recent data have shown a welcome, though gradual increase in the number of women speakers at major cardiology scientific sessions.”
In a research letter published in JACC: Advances, the researchers reviewed 1,696 videos from the ACC meeting held in Washington in April 2022 compiled by ACC Anywhere, and identified the participants as either “introducers” or “speakers.”
The final analysis included 888 speaker-introducer dyads. The introducer population was 49.4% men and 50.6% women; the speaker population included 58.8% men and 41.2% women.
Overall, 77.9% of speakers were addressed professionally in the first mention, and 71.5% were addressed professionally throughout the introduction. When making introductions, full professors were significantly more likely to use nonprofessional address than associate professors, assistant professors, and trainees (28.7% vs. 18.2%, 10.8%, and 0%, respectively).
Regardless of the sex of the speaker, women making introductions were significantly more likely than men to use professional titles for the speaker on first reference and consistently (84.2% vs. 71.5% and 78.2% vs. 64.7%, respectively; P < 0.001 for both).
Men doing introductions used professional forms of address similarly for both men and women speakers on first reference and consistently (72.2% vs. 71.1% and 65.4% vs. 64.3%, respectively).
No significant difference appeared in the use of professional address by women introducing women speakers compared to women introducing men speakers on first reference and consistently (81.9% vs. 86.1% and 75.0% vs. 80.8%, respectively).
“There was no significant association of the formality of introductions with the speaker’s sex and rank,” the researchers noted.
The findings were limited by several factors, including a lack of self-identified sex data, restriction to a binary determination of sex, and a lack of race/ethnicity analysis, the authors noted. In addition, the study could not account for prior familiarity between introducers and speakers that might influence the introduction.
Findings show positive trend
Dr. Kalra was surprised by the study findings, but in a good way. “A recent study on speakers presenting at Internal Medicine grand rounds demonstrated significant sex-based differences in using professional titles for formal introductions for women speakers in comparison with men speakers,” he said in an interview. The current study researchers expected to find similar differences.
“To our pleasant surprise, there was no implicit sex bias in introductions at the ACC 22, as there was no significant difference in the use of professional forms of address by men introducers of women speakers compared with men introducers of men speakers,” he said. “Similarly, the percentage of professional forms of address by women introducers was similar for men and women speakers.”
Setting an example
“A platform like ACC 22 is a window into the world of cardiovascular disease professionals – it’s a snapshot of who we are and what ethos/principles/values we represent,” said Dr. Kalra. “How we introduce one another is a surrogate marker of the mutual respect we behold for one another; our characters are on display, and the world and our junior colleagues are watching. Modern-day cardiology departments and practices must be completely intolerant to subtle microaggressions. The important take-away for clinicians is that it could be that our surprising findings may be attributed to the increased dialogue on sex disparities in cardiology, which has made physicians more cognizant of subtle microaggressions.”
A larger sample size is needed to replicate the study findings, and Dr. Kalra and colleagues hope to include data from ACC’s 2023 meeting, held with the World Congress of Cardiology in March, for additional research in this area.
Time to close inclusion gaps
“The time is now to dive into all previous and current gaps in diversity and inclusion,” Roxana Mehran, MD, said in an interview. “We must understand what the data are, and disseminate and educate all in health care on these issues.”
Dr. Mehran said she was not surprised by the findings of the current study. “This has been my own feeling for many years, watching mostly men be given important roles, such as Grand Rounds Speaking engagements. Now we have the data, and I congratulate the authors for the hard work to dig this out.
“In all aspects, we need to look at the entire talent pool to choose leadership, speakers, and key opinion leaders, as well as principal investigators in clinical trials,” said Dr. Mehran. “This has long been given to our wonderful and talented male colleagues without any effort to look for women, and non-Whites to be given the opportunity to shine and share their talent.”
Looking ahead, “we must remain vigilant and close gaps in all aspects of medicine whether in delivering care, or in the work force; this needs intentional efforts by all.”
The study was funded by makeadent.org and the Ram and Sanjita Kalra Aavishqaar Fund. Dr. Kalra is the CEO and creative director of makeadent.org. The other authors had no financial conflicts to disclose. Dr. Mehran had no financial conflicts to disclose.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
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