Women Radiology Leaders Discuss Strategies for Overcoming Gender Challenges, Barriers

Four leading female radiologists share insights on moving up the career ladder


Women seeking to move into radiology leadership positions need to embrace strategies designed to overcome barriers that still exist in shattering the glass ceiling, according to four radiology leaders.

There are a number of reasons women still face challenges in radiology, often beginning at the residency level where some residency programs tend to pick men over women, said presenter Carol Rumack, MD, professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Colorado Medical School in Aurora.

Because the definition of success is specific to the individual, women should start at the beginning of their career by defining their purpose and goals, said Rebecca Leddy, MD, an associate professor of radiology and assistant director of Breast Imaging in the Department of Radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

It’s important to think positive, said Dr. Leddy, during an RSNA 2016 presentation on women in leadership. “Most people spend their lives looking at their weaknesses,” Dr. Leddy said. “Find your strengths.”

Common barriers include a lack of purpose or direction, mentorship and support, time and personal and professional life balance, Dr. Leddy said.

She encourages women to define their purpose and goals, determine their core strengths and value, to be innovative and proactive, stay open to opportunity, be willing to ask for what they want, find mentors and sponsors, and get out there and do some networking, she said.

Dr. Rumack also stressed the importance of taking a direct approach.

For example, many women adhere to a cultural expectation that they should wait to be asked, which can hold them back, said Dr. Rumack. She encourages women radiologists to ask for what they want in areas including their salaries and in securing research support. She stressed that radiology leaders need to encourage women to participate in leadership roles.

“Both women radiologists and radiology leaders need to strongly support the inclusion of women at the highest levels of radiology organizations so that diversity will be a positive force for change,” said Dr. Rumack, a former chair of RSNA’s Daily Bulletin and a past president of the American College of Radiology who also served as the first president of the American Association for Women Radiologists.

Tackling Challenges Head-on

Identifying the challenges that exist and tackling them in a systematic way is also critical, said presenter Meryle Eklund, MD, assistant professor of pediatric radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“A man may easily lay out his strengths and potentially overestimate his worth to an institution, but women may have a harder time with self-promotion and asking for what they want,” Dr. Eklund said. “Becoming aware of these differences can help junior female radiologists be well equipped for success from the very beginning of their careers.”

Dr. Eklund suggests finding a mentor who can give advice on navigating the system and setting achievable short- and long-term goals.

In terms of moving up the career ladder, presenter Elizabeth Oates, MD, chairman of the Department of Radiology and chief of the Division of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, suggested a number of approaches women can take in radiology.

Look around your department or workplace, said Dr. Oates, who founded Women in Medicine and Science at the University of Kentucky. Look at specialty and subspecialty organizations for volunteer positions, she said.

“Be willing to do what needs to be done, even if unpleasant,” Dr. Oates said. “Show zest and initiative; share and execute innovative ideas; complete assignments on time; do a good job; maintain a current CV ready at a moment’s notice; be willing to travel, speak and write.”

  • View videos of Carol Rumack, MD, and Rebecca Leddy, MD, discussing the role of women in radiology. Dr. Rumack
  • Leddy