The Productivity Gap

In the academic world, scholarly publications are a form of currency. The more articles you have, the “richer” you are professionally. Since medical leaders tend to come from the ranks of the most intellectually wealthy academics, a gap in productivity could explain why more men than women achieve leadership positions.

To test that theory, researchers at the Mayo Clinic analyzed the careers of senior male and female faculty. Their results, published in January’s Academic Medicine, show that “women produced a mean of 1.94 fewer publications than men per year throughout the first 27 years of service. However, after 27 years of service, mean publications by women increased to 2.72 publications per year compared with a mean of 1.15 publications per year by men.”

Women’s productivity lagged behind men’s for the first part of their careers but then surpassed men’s. Their attainment of leadership positions did not reflect this trend. Only half of the women surveyed ever held a leadership role while 70% of the men did.

The study suggests that academic productivity at mid-career is not a good predictor of later achievement. Consequently, the criteria for selecting leaders should include a broad slate of indicators.


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