Are Women Proportionately Represented as Speakers at Orthopaedic Surgery Annual Meetings? A Cross-Sectional Analysis

Katherine M. Gerull, Dongyeon J. Kim, Taylor Cogsil, Lee Rhea, Cara Cipriano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: In spite of efforts to improve gender diversity in orthopaedic surgery, women remain underrepresented, particularly with increasing academic rank. Opportunities to speak at society meetings are an important component of building a national reputation and achieving academic promotions. However, little is known about the gender diversity of orthopaedic society annual meeting speakers. Data on this topic are needed to determine whether these speaking roles are equitably distributed between men and women, which is fundamental to equalizing professional opportunity in academic orthopaedic surgery. QUESTION/PURPOSES: (1) Is the gender diversity of invited speakers at annual orthopaedic subspecialty society meetings proportional to society membership? (2) Are there differences in the proportion of women invited to speak in technical sessions (defined as sessions on surgical outcomes, surgical technique, nonsurgical musculoskeletal care, or basic science) versus nontechnical sessions (such as sessions on diversity, work-life balance, work environment, social media, education, or peer relationships)? (3) Does the presence of women on the society executive committee and annual meeting program committee correlate with the gender diversity of invited speakers? (4) Do societies with explicit diversity efforts (the presence of a committee, task force, award, or grant designed to promote diversity, or mention of diversity as part of the organization's mission statement) have greater gender diversity in their invited speakers? METHODS: Seventeen national orthopaedic societies in the United States were included in this cross-sectional study of speakership in 2018. Each society provided the number of men and women members for their society in 2018. The genders of all invited speakers were tabulated using each society's 2018 annual meeting program. Speakers of all credentials and degrees were included. All manuscript/abstract presenters were excluded from all analyses because these sessions are selected by blinded scientific review. A Fisher's exact test was used to compare the proportion of women versus men in nontechnical speaking roles. The relationship between women in society leadership roles and women in all speaking roles was investigated using a linear regression analysis. A chi square test was used to compare the proportion of women in all speaking roles between societies with stated diversity efforts with societies without such initiatives. RESULTS: Overall, women society members were proportionately represented as annual meeting speakers, comprising 13% (4389 of 33,051) of all society members and 14% (535 of 3928) of all annual meeting speakers (% difference 0.6% [95% CI -0.8 to 1.5]; p = 0.60); however, representation of women speakers ranged from 0% to 33% across societies. Women were more likely than men to have nontechnical speaking roles, with 6% (32 of 535) of women's speaking roles being nontechnical, compared with 2% (51 of 3393) of men's speaking roles being nontechnical (OR 4.2 [95% CI 2.7 to 6.5]; p < 0.001). There was a positive correlation between the proportion of women in society leadership roles and the proportion of women in speaking roles (r = 0.73; p < 0.001). Societies with a stated diversity effort had more women as conference speakers; with 19% (375 of 1997) women speakers for societies with a diversity effort compared with 8% (160 of 1931) women speakers in societies without a diversity effort (OR 2.6 [95% CI 2.1 to 3.1]; p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Although the percentage of women in speaking roles was proportional to society membership overall, our study identified opportunities to improve gender representation in several societies and in technical versus nontechnical sessions. Positioning more women in leadership roles and developing stated diversity efforts are two interventions that may help societies improve proportional representation; we recommend that all societies monitor the gender representation of speakers at their annual meetings and direct conference organizing committees to create programs with gender equity. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Society leadership, national oversight committees, invited speakers, and conference attendees all contribute to the layers of accountability for equitable speakership at annual meetings. National steering committees such as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Diversity Advisory Board should monitor and report conference speaker diversity data to create systemwide accountability. Conference attendees and speakers should critically examine conference programs and raise concerns if they notice inequities. With these additional layers of accountability, orthopaedic surgery annual meetings may become more representative of their society members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2729-2740
Number of pages12
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


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