Do a quick head count at your next CME program: If you're like many CME providers, you'll see a lot more men than women. But why? According to the Association of American Medical College's Women in U.S. Academic Medicine Statistics 1999-2000, the proportion of women residents grew from 28 percent in 1989 to 38 percent in 1999. The problem of attracting female physicians to CME is sure to grow as more women swell the ranks of medical professionals.

Jane Tipping, an educational consultant in Markham, Ontario, and Jill Donahue, continuing health education manager for Aventis Pharma in Whitby, Ontario, are seeking to shed light on some of the barriers that dissuade women from participating in CME; they gave a presentation on the topic at the Alliance for CME annual meeting in January. A few trends are emerging:

  1. Different lifestyles The age-old role of the woman as main childcare provider still clings to today's professionals. “While men and women appreciate weekend CME that includes a family component, men don't seem to feel the same level of guilt attending programs that exclude children and spouses,” says Tipping.

  2. Different learning styles “In our focus groups, which broke the men and women into separate groups, the men worked systematically through the questions,” says Tipping. “As soon as the men left the room, the women all began talking. The questions were answered, but they took more of a consensus approach.”

  3. Different areas of interest Female physicians' topics of interest reflect their patient orientation, which often has more of a psychosocial aspect. “They feel the way they interact with their patients is different,” says Tipping. “They say they'll go to a male colleague if they have a cold, but for issues like sexual dysfunction, they'll go to a female physician.”

What Do You Think?

We'd like to hear your opinions and experiences. Please answer the following questions and fax or e-mail, along with your contact information, to Sue Pelletier, fax: (978) 449-0105, e-mail: A followup based on your responses will be published in an upcoming issue. All responses will remain anonymous unless you indicate otherwise.

  • How big an issue is attracting female physicians to meetings? Do you see it being an area of concern for the future?

  • What are some of the barriers you see that keep female physicians from participating in meetings?

  • What types of format, content, scheduling, location, and faculty have you found to be attractive to female physicians?

  • Have you specifically targeted women in marketing your meetings? If so, how?

  • Have you held special events at your meetings targeted to women, or done anything else at meetings to help women feel more comfortable, or to encourage their attendance?

  • Do you think men and women learn differently? If yes, how?

Check out the archives at for “Women Physicians Speak Out,” in MM January/February 2000.