Examining differences in career advancement and work-life for male and female clinicians


A survey offers insight into how male and female doctors perceive career advancement opportunities and the ability to have some form of work-life balance.

Women have made great strides in becoming better represented in medicine, but there is still much to be done for female doctors to achieve full gender parity. One key area is addressing the barriers that can lead to unequal career progression for women. A research letter in JAMA Network Open looks at how physician faculty perceives parenting challenges as well as career progression and identifying difference in perceptions between male and female faculty members.1

The researchers created a 31-item Likert scale survey, that adapted questions from previous surveys covering pregnancy, parenting, and perception of how parenting can affect employment promotions. Questions about demographics including sex, department, and parental status. The survey was deployed to the entire physician faculty at Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, and 4 weekly reminders to complete the survey were also sent. Any participant who gave an affirmative answer to the parent questions were then asked to explain how commitments to his or her child had affected participation in leadership, scholarship, and service opportunities.

Of the 2069 potential respondents, 1085 completed the survey, with 953 of the respondents indicating that they were parents and 632 saying that they were women. The women were more likely to say that they had turned down a project because of specific parenting commitments (women, 285 [53.1%]; men, 181 [43.5%]; P = .004) and further more likely to state that they had not participated in an institutional or departmental committee (women, 256 [47.7%]; men, 155 [37.2%]; P = .002). The female respondents were more likely to say that they turned down a leadership role, but this difference was not statistically significant (women, 129 [24.0%]; men, 78 [18.8%]; P = .06). Men and women said that they had not presented at a national conference at roughly the same rate (women, 303 [56.4%]; men, 215 [1.7%]; P = .15). Both men and women said that there was a positive culture for pregnancy, including the need for a flexible schedule. However, parenting appeared to negatively affect promotion possibilities for women, but not for men, according to both respondents. Additionally, neither men nor women felt comfortable discussing work-life integration with the faculty leadership.

The survey concluded that challenges still exist for female physicians for managing work-family tensions. However, they do note that the pandemic, with its many changes such as virtual meetings, could help provide solutions to help parents bridge the gap, as well as prompt discussions in the subject.


1. Morgan H, Singer K, Fitzgerald J, et al. Perceptions of parenting challenges and career progression among physician faculty at an academic hospital. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2029076. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.29076

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