Here's another weird discovery about sexism and the workforce today: according to a study published in the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) on Dec. 16, majority of the top leadership positions in the medical profession are occupied by mustached men in spite of the increasing number of women entering the scene.

It may seem quirky but the research and findings were still peer-reviewed and, thus, legitimate. The study was structured in good humor fit for the holidays but the implications are significant because the issue it tackles is a serious one, especially now that the concern goes beyond demands for equal pay.

Its title is "Plenty of moustaches but not enough women: cross sectional study of medical leaders" and it was prepared by Doctors Mackenzie R Wehner and Kevin T Nead, as well as Professor of Law Katerina Linos and Assistant Professor Eleni Linos. The research team's aim was simple: go through the publicly available data of the Top 50 schools of medicine funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States, find out who held the top leadership positions in all those institutions and determine the proportion of females as opposed to mustachioed males.

It's humorous because the main point of comparison is facial hair but the research team gave a legitimate reason for their choice. "We wanted to choose a rare but easily identifiable comparator unrelated to promotion and achievement: the moustache."

To put it simply: in a strict profession that promotes cleanliness, males would probably tend to sport a clean-shaven look but there will still be a handful who would refuse to give up their facial hair, whether for religious or personal reasons. They divided the categories into the three groups: Males without moustaches, males with moustaches and females.

What's the point of doing the study? "We want to increase the representation of women in academic medical leadership by drawing attention to sex disparities," they explained their aim. It seems like a simple task but, if you really think about it, the disparity would not exist if it was that easy. "In 1960, women accounted for only 9% of medical students in the United States, but for the past 15 years, almost 50% of medical students have been women," they wrote in the introduction.

What they found was that, in spite of being the minority sub-group in male medical professionals, mustachioed men still outnumbers females. Out of the 1018 department leaders who met the team's criteria, 87 percent were males. "We found that women accounted for 13% (137/1018) of department leaders at the top 50 NIH funded medical schools in the U.S.. Moustachioed individuals were all men and accounted for 19% (190/1018) of department leaders," they reported.

For a profession in which 50 percent of the population consists of females, the result says a lot.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.