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More Women or More Moustaches?

There are more men with moustaches in leadership positions at academic medical departments in the US than women, according to an analysis appearing in the British Journal of Medicine. The study appears in the journal's holiday edition, which generally publishes offbeat, though still peer-reviewed papers.

"To highlight the paucity of women in academic medical leadership, we wanted to choose a rare but easily identifiable comparator unrelated to promotion and achievement: the moustache," the researchers write.

By searching through the websites of the top 50 medical schools in the US, Eleni Linos, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleague determined the highest-ranking leader for each specialty — general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, plastic surgery, and so on — at each institution.

They then included in their analysis those leaders whose pictures appeared on their webpage so that they could gauge facial hair status. They further defined a moustache as facial hair appearing on the upper lip — this, they note, means that a handlebar moustache or the Zappa qualifies as a moustache, but that muttonchops do not.

As Linos and her colleagues report, 1,015 department leaders met their inclusion criteria, and only two were excluded due to a lack of a photo.

Women, they found, account for 13 percent of department leaders, while men with moustaches accounted for 19 percent of department leaders.

The proportion of female department leaders by institution ranged from zero to 26 percent, while the proportion of mustachioed department leaders ranged from none to 37 percent.

Five specialties — obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, dermatology, family medicine, and emergency medicine — had more than 20 percent female department leaders, and 10 specialties had more than 20 percent mustachioed department leaders. The "thickest moustache density," the researchers say, was in psychiatry, pathology, and anesthesiology.

They used this data to develop a moustache index, which indicated that six of the 20 specialties they examined had indices greater than one, showing that there were more women than men with moustaches.

"We believe that every department and institution should strive for a moustache index [greater than or equal to] 1," Linos and her colleagues say. "There are two ways to achieve this goal: by increasing the number of women or by asking leaders to shave their moustaches. In addition to being discriminatory, the latter choice could have detrimental effects on workplace satisfaction and emotional wellbeing of mustachioed individuals. Deans are left with one option: to hire, retain, and promote more women."