1Ofonime Nkechinyere Ukweh,2Latifa Rajab, 3Sarah Khoncarly, 4Judy Gichoya 5Murray Asch
1Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, 2Muhimbili National Hospital, 3Department of Radiology, MetroHealth Medical Centre/Case Western Reserve University, 4Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, 5Lakeridge Health
Women in interventional radiology (WIR) represent a growing minority in a historically male-dominated specialty. The number of WIR continues to rise with the support of professional associations. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) not only suffers from a lack of formal IR training programs but also suffers from a scarcity of female interventional radiologists with young professional associations without the capacity for WIR outreach. This study aims to highlight the gender gap and the potential reasons for the lack of WIR in SSA, with recommendations of how to engage more WIRs in Africa.
Material(s) and Method(s):
A prospective evaluation was conducted using an online survey that examined physician age, nationality, training type, experience, involvement, and barriers faced by female interventional radiologists in Africa. The survey, devised by the authors, consisted of 10 questions and was sent electronically to all identifiable female interventional radiologists in sub-Saharan Africa. Areas of suggestion for improving upon these barriers were also discussed along with the development of the African Women in IR Team, that would identify and work with any interested and or prospective women in sub-Saharan Africa who would need help in resource finding and support to accomplish their goals. Responses were collected in October 2021 and analyzed.
A total of 6 WIR from four countries in SSA responded to the survey: 1 IR attending and 5 trainees. 83.3% of respondents were between the ages 30-40 and all respondents came from diagnostic radiology backgrounds, who subsequently entered a two-year IR fellowship program. 50% of respondents considered opportunities equal between female and male IRs, while 33.3% reported experiencing gender bias and were asked to give a brief description. Examples included being bullied by male colleagues, male colleagues given preferential treatment during training, and women being discouraged from pursuing IR and left out of interesting learning opportunities because they are “too young to be in IR” or that “women should not be exposed to radiation”. These implicit biases present as an invisible barrier that make it difficult for WIR to receive admitting privileges in certain facilities.
Addressing and identifying issues of gender inequality in male-dominated specialties remains an important topic in SSA. It’s important to break down these barriers and promote and support our female trainees in the future.