Underrepresented women leaders: lasting impact of gender homophily in surgical faculty networks

Maria V. Suurna, Andreas Leibbrandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Despite the increase of women in surgical fields and resources toward advancing women, there is no corresponding increased representation of women in higher academic ranks and leadership. The following hypotheses are explored: 1) men and women build/maintain different relationship networks and 2) women are not similarly included within the organization and do not receive the same sponsorship as male counterparts. Study Design: Prospective observational study. Methods: Three months of prospective, passive organizational network data of full-time faculty at an academic medical center were collected by analysis of deidentified internal email communication logs. Data were analyzed and strength of network relationships was assessed using algorithms measuring the tie, or connection, score. Data analysis was performed with standard statistical methods and multivariable regression models, comparing network relationships based on gender and academic rank. Results: Among 345 full-time faculties from surgical departments, 45.2% were female Assistant Professors, but only 9.8% were female full Professors. Men had 55% more network relationships with other men than women had with men. Gender homophily was particularly pronounced at the higher academic ranks. Men compared to women in higher ranks had 157% more network relationships to other men in lower ranks. Multivariable regression models suggested direct association of these gender differences in relationships with more women in lower academic ranks. Conclusion: Higher academic rank can be predicted by male gender, tenure, and number of meaningful relationships. Women are underrepresented at the leadership level in surgical departments. Gender homophily is present in collaboration networks among academic surgeons and is associated with impeded female career advancement. Level of Evidence: 2 Laryngoscope, 2021.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalThe Laryngoscope
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • academic promotion
  • Gender diversity and inclusion
  • gender homophily
  • organizational network analysis
  • women in otolaryngology
  • women in surgery

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