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Female leadership group aims to address gender inequity in pediatric subspecialties

July 1, 2022

Women in medicine continue to be exposed to intersectional issues like discrimination, harassment and racism (Rotenstein LS, Jena AB. N Engl J Med. 2018;378:2255-2257). In addition, female physicians often are the primary caregivers for children and other dependents, and therefore disproportionately shoulder family responsibilities (Jolly S, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:344-353; Starmer AJ, et al. Pediatrics. 2019;144:e20182926).

Female Leadership and Excellence in Pediatric Subspecialties (FLEXPeds) was developed as a community of female pediatric subspecialists from 31 AAP sections who support each other in their work, careers and lives. The group’s goal is to discuss, design and identify solutions to address gender inequity in pediatric subspecialties.

Studies have shown that women in medicine lack opportunities for career advancement and leadership (Carr PL, et al. Acad Med. 2018;93:1694-1699). They also face pay disparities and mental health challenges (Catenaccio E, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5:e220067; Hoff T, Lee DR. Med Care. 2021;59:711-720).

These gender gaps challenge the AAP core values of helping to ensure that members experience professional satisfaction and personal well-being.

On the other hand, studies show female physicians are in high demand because they are preferred as communicators for pediatric patients (Bernzweig J, et al. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:586-591) and are known for their improved outcomes and quality of care provided to female patients (Wallis CD, JAMA Surg. 2022;157:146-156; Tsugawa Y, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177:206-213).

In 2017, the number of women who entered medical school exceeded the number of men for the first time, according to Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) ( Over 70% of pediatric residents in 2021 were female (

However, women are underrepresented in leadership positions. Only one-third of pediatric department chairs are female, according to the AAMC (

The percent of AAP members who are women has increased dramatically, from 28% in the late-1980s to 63% in recent years. About 21% of AAP members are women of  childbearing age (younger than 40 years), while 6% are men in the same age range (

With support from AAP leadership and the Friends of Children Fund, FLEXPeds had its first summit in April. The virtual gathering offered opportunities to network and build on existing communities of women in leadership initiatives. It also provided space to identify challenges and action steps that may be similar across pediatric subspecialty and surgical practices.

Through presentations and facilitated discussion, the summit offered a forum to build the foundation for this group and to identify steps the group can take to address gender equity issues.

A leadership group has been established that will refine the FLEXPeds vision, mission and goals, and define a structure for the group.

The long-term goal of FLEXPeds is to support its members and achieve gender equity so all women in pediatrics have the same chance as their male colleagues to advance to the next stage of their career.

Dr. Dammann is an AAP candidate member and a founding member of FLEXPeds.  


For more information about FLEXPeds or to join the group

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