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sheMD Journal Club

Association of Domestic Responsibilities With Career Satisfaction for Physician Mothers in Procedural vs Nonprocedural Fields

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Physicians who are mothers face challenges with distribution of domestic duties, which can be an obstacle in career advancement and achieving overall job satisfaction.

Overall, this 2019 study looked at over 1700 female physicians. A majority were in non-procedural specialties (72%) with only 27% in procedural specialties. Physician mothers report having more domestic responsibilities than their partners. Physician mothers reported having SOLE responsibility for most domestic tasks compared with their spouse or partner, including routine child care, back-up or emergency child care plans, cooking, shopping for groceries, shopping for children’s clothing, vacation planning, helping with homework, and laundry. The study found that spouses of physician mothers were more likely to have sole responsibility of home repairs, finances and automobile maintenance. 

For proceduralist mothers, self-reported higher levels of domestic responsibility were associated with career dissatisfaction. Physician mothers in procedural specialties primarily responsible for 5 or more domestic tasks reported a desire to change careers more often than those responsible for fewer than 5 tasks. This study corroborates other studies that have shown increased rates of burnout, emotional exhaustion and work-family conflicts in female surgeons compared to male surgeons.


Unequal distribution of domestic labor may contribute to the "glass ceiling" that women experience in medicine (and outside of medicine).  This unequal distribution of tasks may lead to decreased academic productivity, slower career advancement, and difficulty recruiting females to certain specialties.   Increasing numbers of mothers in the medical workforce may create a demand for more equitable distribution and/or outsourcing of domestic tasks.

To read the entire article, click here.

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