Although psychiatry has one of the highest proportions of women entering its residency programs, women have not assumed a proportionate amount of academic or research leadership positions in the field. This literature review identifies three general groups of models that explain disparities between men's and women's careers, but these do not fully account for observed differences in psychiatric practice and academic progression of women in psychiatry. Gender differences in career paths in psychiatry are not only affected by individual traits and choices, but also by economic factors. Theories based on organizational discrimination, and systems and market factors are also reviewed. No single explanatory model accounts for disparities between the careers of men and those of women. Because psychiatric practice patterns may be broadly distributed across labor sectors, more diverse career patterns are possible in psychiatry than in more constrained and traditional fields. Research on gender differences in psychiatry careers must consider not only the individual work style and choice, but also the position of individuals within the organization and the position of those organizations across the labor market.