chart of types of mustaches

Men With Mustaches Outnumber Women Among Medical School Leaders

In a tongue-in-cheek study that nonetheless highlights a serious issue, researchers found that medical school department heads in the United States are more likely to have a mustache than to be a woman

The analysis of the top 50 government-funded schools of medicine found that, while only 15 percent of the adult male population is rocking a ‘stache these days, moustachioed individuals made up 19 percent of the 1,018 department leaders, while women composed only 13 percent.

This is, of course, not the first study to explore the dearth of women in positions of leadership within the medical establishment. Despite the fact that women have made up nearly half of medical students for the last 15 years, they comprise just 38 percent of full-time faculty, 21 percent of full professors, and 16 percent of deans at medical schools.

The researchers call for the modest goal of raising the “mustache index” — the ratio of women to men with mustaches — to greater than one. “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 moustachioed individuals. Deans are left with one option: to hire, retain, and promote more women.”

While that option is slightly more complicated than picking up a razor, it’s not brain surgery: Beefing up safeguards against unconscious bias in hiring, strong policies against sexual harassment, offering paid parental leave and job flexibility, and mentoring programs can all help.

Header image credit: Jon Dyer/

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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