Every year, the British Medical Journal's Christmas issue contains whimsical research papers to amuse their subscribers—but this year, it's making headlines by finding there are more men with mustaches in positions of "academic medical leadership" in the United States than women in similar positions. Ha ha?
Basically, of the 1,018 departmental heads at the top 50 National Institute of Health-funded medical schools (which includes top private universities, because everyone loves that government grant cash), 137 are women, or about 13%. 190 of those positions are filled by dudes with mustaches. How do they define a mustache? So glad you asked. They looked at pictures of every one of the 1,018 leaders and evaluated them based on this criteria:
We defined a moustache as the visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip and included both stand alone moustaches (for example, Copstash Standard, Pencil, Handlebar, Dali, Supermario) as well as moustaches in combination with other facial hair (for example, Van Dyke, Balbo, The Zappa). Department leaders with facial hairstyles that did not include hair on the upper lip (for example, Mutton Chops, Chin Curtain) were considered not to have a moustache.
What about ladies with that certain extra-dignified lip fuzz?
We evaluated each leader for the presence of facial hair regardless of sex.
Dang. Obviously, as amusing as you may or may not find this, it speaks to major hurdles left in the medical field when it comes to integrating and accepting women at the highest level.
There is a counter-argument, of course, and to ignore it would be to let its proponents think it can't be faced. The argument is simple: babies. To achieve a high position in the medical field requires giving up your twenties to study and your early 30s to climbing the departmental ladder, the argument goes. It holds that many women, facing the biological clock, simply drop out. Here's the thing—even if that argument were true, it's highly unlikely that it would result in men occupying 87% of leadership positions. It's like how there are more men named John running Fortune 500 companies than there are women. The gap is simply too huge to account for the difference. Women make up 30% of physicians. Even 20% of Senators and 19% of Representatives are women, and that's a terrible figure compared to many OECD countries.
Wait, this study was supposed to be funny. Is mad the new funny? Is that the real finding here? As for the authors themselves, they limited their outrage to the absolute minimum, calling for schools to try to achieve women/mustache equality:
Conclusions Moustachioed individuals significantly outnumber women as leaders of medical departments in the US. We believe that every department and institution should strive for a moustache index ≥1. Known, effective, and evidence based policies to increase the number of women in leadership positions should be prioritized.