Study of highly-motivated GenX physicians shows that women spend more time than men on parenting and household labor

Physician checking child (Credit: David Mason/Flickr)

Main Point:

A survey of high-achieving young physician-researchers shows pronounced gender differences in domestic activities among those married with children.

Published in:

Annals of Internal Medicine 

Study Further:

It is known that female physician-researchers do not achieve career success at the same rate as men. Could differences in nonprofessional responsibilities explain some of the gap?  Researchers surveyed 1,055 physician-researchers who were recipients of National Institute of Health research K08 and K28 awards (highly selective grants made to early-career researchers) and had active academic affiliation at the time of the survey to investigate the division of domestic labor and professional activities (research, teaching, and patient care) by gender.

Among the physicians who were married, the men were almost four times more likely to have a spouse who either did not work or worked only part-time. Among married physicians with children, men reported working seven hours longer and spending 12 fewer hours on parenting and domestic tasks each week than women. Women in partnered relationships with children were also substantially more likely to take time off to care for children when there was a disruption in usual childcare.

The study authors express concern that the medical profession may be particularly resistant to policy and cultural changes necessary to ensure the success of women.

The authors of an accompanying editorial – both highly-motivated physician-researchers who also care for families – are neither surprised nor worried by the findings. They suggest that division of time may be more likely driven by preferences.  Female physicians may choose research because of it is intellectually challenging, but it also affords flexibility. They suggest that awareness that successful academic careers do not follow a singular trajectory and may have distinct phases. “There is no need to do it all, all at once, right now,” they write.

Further Information:

Annals of Internal Medicine http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M13-0974

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