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Artist's rendering of a moustache. (Mushon Zer-Aviv, Yanka [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Study: Moustaches outnumber women among medical school leaders

A novel study of U.S. medical school leadership has found that women are not only outnumbered by men, they are outnumbered by moustaches.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California teamed up to highlight sex disparities in the field, and choose moustaches as a point of comparison because of their relative scarcity, with less than 15 percent of men overall sporting homegrown soup strainers, according to the study, published this week in the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

The study examined departmental leaders from 50 U.S. medical schools that receive funding from the National Institutes of Health, including the schools at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Of the 1,018 leaders examined, 13 percent were women while 19 percent (all men, the authors note) had moustaches.

Researchers defined a moustache as “the visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip” and included both stand-alone moustaches (Pencil, Handlebar, Dali and even “Supermario” styles are all mentioned) as well as those incorporated into other facial hair styles (Van Dyke, Balbo, Zappa). But facial hairstyles that feature bare upper lips (Mutton Chops, Chin Curtain) were excluded.

Johns Hopkins had six moustaches and one woman among 19 departmental leaders, while the University of Maryland, Baltimore had five moustaches and one woman among 20 leaders, according to the study.

Ohio State University, however, boasted zero moustaches and three women among its 20 departmental leaders.

Departments should strive to have more women than moustaches, resulting in a “moustache index” of greater than 1. But since asking the moustachioed to shave would be discriminatory and likely detrimental to workplace satisfaction and morale, the only option is for medical school deans is to hire more women, researchers concluded.

The study does acknowledge some limitations. Researchers examined photos on each department’s website, which could be out of date; they also could not confirm that all of the moustaches in the photos were real, although the study says that two of the authors were trained in dermatology and “skilled at examining hair growth.”