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SheMD Journal Club: Time Spent on Professional Activities and Unwaged Domestic Work

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.

Why is this article important?

  • Female physicians are more likely than male physicians to start working full time and have less professional working hours overall. One possible contributing factor to this issue is an imbalance between work and the number of hours spent on domestic duties between male and female physicians.

Article Summary

What they looked at: The authors of this study look at the time spent on work and domestic duties for male and female primary care physicians with children at home to see if there were differences. It is important to note that this study was performed in Canada, not in the USA. However domestic duties would be unlikely to differ greatly between the USA and Canada, so this can likely be applied to our population as well.

How they measured things: Physicians were asked to estimate the average number of hours spent weekly on professional activities, on domestic tasks, and on childcare.

What were their outcomes:

  • They found that women with children spent significantly more time performing childcare duties each week. Female physicians with children spent approximately 39.7 hours per week on childcare, while male physicians with children spent approximately 11.4 hours per week on childcare.

  • On household duties, women (with or without children) averaged 10.9 hours per week vs men (with or without children) who averaged 7.6 hours, however this difference was not statistically significant.

  • When they totaled professional hours, domestic duties and childcare, women performed 90.5 hours per week total vs men at 68.8 hours per week, which was a statistically significant difference. They found that male physicians were 4 times more likely to have a spouse that was unemployed or had part-time employment (only 30% had full-time working spouses), whereas female physicians were much more likely to have a spouse that was employed full-time (85.3%).

Why do we care about this article?

What does this mean?

This is the first study to give quantitative data to the idea that home duties contribute to a decrease in female physician working hours and give specific data to the breakdown of the hours spent.

How does this apply to us?

This data may provide an explanation as to why females are less involved in voluntary professional activities early in their career. Such involvement is a known factor in career advancement and may explain some of the differences between genders in leadership in medicine.

Take Home Point

Though all physicians with families have home responsibilities, female physicians spend markedly more hours of time on them, leading to decreased time spent on professional responsibilities and a possible factor in gender bias in medicine.

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.

  • Wang C, Sweetman A. Gender, family status and physician labour supply. Soc Sci Med. 2013 Oct;94:17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.06.018. Epub 2013 Jun 25. PMID: 23931941.

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