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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Critical Care 1/2018

Women in Intensive Care study: a preliminary assessment of international data on female representation in the ICU physician workforce, leadership and academic positions

Critical Care > Ausgabe 1/2018
Bala Venkatesh, Sangeeta Mehta, Derek C. Angus, Simon Finfer, Flavia R. Machado, John Marshall, Imogen Mitchell, Sandra Peake, Janice L. Zimmerman
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13054-018-2139-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Despite increasing female enrolment into medical schools, persistent gender gaps exist in the physician workforce. There are limited published data on female representation in the critical care medicine workforce.


To obtain a global perspective, societies (n = 84; 79,834 members (40,363 physicians, 39,471 non-physicians)) registered with the World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine were surveyed. Longitudinal data on female trainee and specialist positions between 2006-2017 were obtained from Australia and New Zealand. Data regarding leadership and academic faculty representation were also collected from national training bodies and other organisations of critical care medicine.


Of the 84 societies, 23 had a registered membership of greater than 500 members. Responses were received from 27 societies (n = 55,996), mainly high-income countries, covering 70.1% of the membership. Amongst the physician workforce, the gender distribution was available from six (22%) participating societies—mean proportion of females 37 ± 11% (range 26–50%). Longitudinal data from Australia and New Zealand between 2006 and 2017 demonstrate rising proportions of female trainees and specialists. Female trainee and specialist numbers increased from 26 to 37% and from 13 to 22% respectively. Globally, female representation in leadership positions was presidencies of critical care organisations (0–41%), representation on critical care medicine boards and councils (8–50%) and faculty representation at symposia (7–34%). Significant gaps in knowledge exist: data from low and middle-income countries, the age distribution and the time taken to enter and complete training.


Despite limited information globally, available data suggest that females are under-represented in training programmes, specialist positions, academic faculty and leadership roles in intensive care. There are significant gaps in data on female participation in the critical care workforce. Further data from intensive care organisations worldwide are required to understand the demographics, challenges and barriers to their professional progress.
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