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Association of Domestic Responsibilities With Career Satisfaction for Physician Mothers

Here at sheMD, we believe in the importance of practicing Evidence-Based Medicine. We believe the same principles apply to discussing Gender and Medical Education. Therefore, we are bringing you an entire Journal Club series! Our series will focus on foundational and new literature within the gender and medicine space.

Today, we will be discussing the article entitled, Association of Domestic Responsibilities With Career Satisfaction for Physician Mothers in Procedural vs Non Procedural Fields.

Why is this article important?

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

Article Summary

What they looked at:

  • This article studied the association between career satisfaction and domestic workload and the difference between procedural and nonprocedural specialties.

How they measured things:

  • An anonymous, secure survey was sent out to the Physician Moms Group to collect data (n=2363).

What were their outcomes:

  • 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 for home repairs, finances and automobile maintenance.

Why do we care about this article?

What does this mean?

  • 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.

How does this apply to us?

  • Unequal distribution of domestic responsibility has been documented as a factor in the underrepresentation in female physicians in leadership roles in academic medicine as well as contributing to career satisfaction.

Take Home Point

  • 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.

Similar Articles

  • Hitti E, Hadid D, Khoury SJ, Tamim H, Makki M, Karam CM. Domestic tethers: Gender differences in career paths and domestic responsibilities of top-research medical school graduates. PLoS One. 2022 Apr 20;17(4):e0267288. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267288. PMID: 35442989; PMCID: PMC9020711.

  • Pearson C, Levine M, Messman A, Chopra T, Awali R, Robb L, Melikian R, Janis A, Levine DL. Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Physician Moms. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2022 Oct;16(5):2049-2055. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2021.49. Epub 2021 Feb 16. PMID: 33588979; PMCID: PMC8485042.

  • Perumalswami CR, Takenoshita S, Tanabe A, Kanda R, Hiraike H, Okinaga H, Jagsi R, Nomura K. Workplace resources, mentorship, and burnout in early career physician-scientists: a cross sectional study in Japan. BMC Med Educ. 2020 Jun 3;20(1):178. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02072-x. PMID: 32493497; PMCID: PMC7268538.

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