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Women in medical physics: a preliminary analysis of workforce and research participation in Australia and New Zealand

  • S. B. CroweEmail author
  • T. Kairn
Scientific Note

Abstract

Although the participation of women within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforces has been widely discussed over recent decades, the recording and analysis of data pertaining to the gender balance of medical physicists in Australia and New Zealand remains rare. This study aimed to provide a baseline for evaluating future changes in workforce demographics by quantifying the current level of representation of women in the Australasian medical physics workforce and providing an indication of the relative contribution made by those women to the local research environment. The 2015 Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM) member directory and list of chief physicists at ACPSEM-accredited radiation oncology and diagnostic imaging training centres were interrogated to identify the gender balance of medical physicists working in Australia and New Zealand. A specific investigation of the employment levels of all medical physicists in Queensland was undertaken to provide an example of the gender balance at different levels of seniority in one large Australian state. Lists of authors of medical physics presentations at ACPSEM annual conferences and authors of publications in the ACPSEM’s official journal, were used to provide an indication of the gender balance in published research within Australia and New Zealand. The results of this study showed that women currently constitute approximately 28 % of the medical physics workforce in Australia and New Zealand, distributed disproportionally in junior roles; there is a decrease in female participation in the field with increasing levels of seniority, which is particularly apparent in the stratified data obtained for the Queensland workforce. Comparisons with older data suggest that this situation has changed little since 2008. Examination of ACPSEM conference presentations suggested that there are similar disparities between the gender-balance of proffered and invited or keynote speakers (28 % and 13 % from female authors) and the gender balance of certified and chief physicists (28 % and 21 % female). The representation of women in the ACPSEM journal does not differ substantially between authorship of proffered versus invited work (22 % and 19 % from female authors). While this work was limited to evaluating the membership, annual conference and official journal of the ACPSEM (rather than evaluating the entire medical physics workforce and the contributions of male and female physicists to international conferences and publications), this study nonetheless led to the following recommendations: that a longitudinal study analysing correlations between age, period of service, seniority and gender should be undertaken and that future ACPSEM workforce surveys should include analyses of gender representation.

Keywords

Gender Workforce Demographics Medical physics 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Geoff Barbaro, Eva Bezak, Diana Binny, Kurt Byrnes, Paul Charles, Louis Fourie, Emma Inness, John Kenny, Craig Lancaster, Tim Markwell, Johnny Morales and Steven Sylvander for valuable information and advice.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

SBC is an member of the ACPSEM (from 2013) and a member of the Queensland branch committee (from 2014). TK is a member of the ACPSEM (from 2013, associate member from 2008), a past member of the Queensland branch committee (2012–2014), an associate editor of APESM (from 2010), and was chair of the EPSM 2012 scientific programme.

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Copyright information

© Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cancer Care ServicesRoyal Brisbane & Women’s HospitalBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Genesis Cancer Care QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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