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A majority of women who are already practising radiology highly recommend the field for women, keeping the humongous opportunities in perspective

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Today, women are equally contributing in all professions and healthcare is no exception. It is observed that every year, a significant number of women take admission in Medical colleges but very few women opt for radiology as a higher study option, resulting in a very low number of female radiologists all over the world.

According to an article cited in Applied Radiology, in 2006, women constituted only 25 per cent of radiology residents, while they constituted 45 per cent among the total number of medical students. Unfortunately, in 2014-15, the percentage remained stagnant at 27 per cent. There had not been any significant increase in the percentage, since then.

But, at the same time, the entire gulf-region is thriving with female radiologists from India. As a matter of fact, radiology as a profession has grown immensely, offering lucrative career opportunities and good pay scales, then why such less number of women opt for radiology as a viable career option.

Why do women refrain themselves from taking up radiology?

While the list of potential reasons is exhaustive, most of them are misnomers. According to experts, below are a few reasons why women aren’t opting for radiology globally:-

Exposure: One of the prime reasons for women not choosing radiology as an option is because of their minimal exposure to it in the early years of medical education. Most of the medical schools do not include radiology until the third or fourth year, and by then, the majority of the students have already decided on a speciality, that they want to pursue.

Role models: Like in internal medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics and surgery, female medical students do not see many role models in radiology. Hence, they do not have anybody to look up to, that can act as an inspiration for them. Most of the women are apprehensive of taking up something new if the number of women in the same domain is relatively less.

Technology: Going by the theories that are not very relevant now, women do not take up radiology as they are afraid of technology. It is seen that some female medical students are afraid of the various components of Physics and its applications and high-tech approach used in radiology, making them not opt for the same. But many women radiologists that are heading radiology departments and are occupying senior most positions have proved this wrong. Today, women are equally comfortable and tech-savvy to grasp with these concepts and it is substantiated by the number of girls becoming engineers.

Patient contact: Women are more inclined towards specialities that involve human touch such as gynaecology, paediatrics etc. The potential lack of patient contact can be seen as one of the reasons why women don’t choose radiology. However, according to experts, women, medical students interested in patient contact can consider paediatric radiology and imaging. Also, interventional radiology is another area with a lot of patient contacts, so women can opt it willingly if given a chance.

In several kinds of radio-imaging, e.g. breast imaging, uterus ultrasound, etc., patients prefer women physicians. Whether it’s diversity in religion, sex, ethnicity etc., diverse healthcare professionals bring different outlooks to the table and respond differently to patient care. Moreover, diverse leadership also goes a long way in impacting healthcare policies of an institution. A diverse workforce also becomes more inclusive of the population they’re treating.

A majority of women who are already practising radiology highly recommend the field for women, keeping the humongous opportunities in perspective. Despite radiology not highlighted well in the undergraduate curriculum, the awareness about its applications have increased manifold. In the last decade, the trend has changed and many toppers from both the genders are opting for radiology as their first choice.

What makes radiology a suitable profession for women is that there are no emergencies like in paediatrics and gynaecology; one can choose schedules at will, offering a distinct advantage of flexible working hours. The remuneration for radiologists is in-line with seniority and skills. Because of the high-demand for female radiologists, their salaries are quite high and that too for limited working hours. The best thing about being a radiologist is that there are no geographic or language barriers (as patient-communication is less) and one can even start from where they had left, after a sabbatical.

With all the perceptions made about radiology in the minds of people and especially women, it is important to bring out the necessary changes. There should be changes in academic curriculums of medical schools that enable students to have an idea about all the sub-specialities within the first two years itself. This will help them in cultivating interest in a particular subject and they can learn it right from the start.

Improving gender diversity in radiology shouldn’t be taken as a commitment but rather as an opportunity to bring one-of-a-kind viewpoints into the picture and help healthcare professionals to push themselves ahead in serving patients in an increasingly compassionate manner.

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