Women & Wellness Part 3

Let's talk about wellness in female physicians. We are bringing you the DATA on why women in medicine have HIGHER rates of burnout than their male colleagues. If you haven't yet read Part 1 and Part 2, click the links to read those first. Don't miss any part of this awesome series on Women & Wellness in medicine!

Work-Life Integration

Schwingshackle states that “the pursuit of a work-life balance acts as quicksand in our professional and personal lives resulting in slow drowning in frustration, depression, and exhaustion.”(20) In simpler terms, work-life balance is seen as a fallacy where work is bad and life is good. This is commonly reported as a contributing factor to burnout amongst women physicians.(2,20) Increasing responsibilities outside of the workplace contributes to a time management conflict, which impinges upon women physicians and is a major career advancement barrier.(21) With these increasing responsibilities and obstacles, work life integration suffers and risk of burnout thus increases. In addition to this misconception of work-life balance, women physician trainees report more negative interference from home to work and greater emotional demands than their male colleagues. Both of which are associated with higher levels of burnout.(22)

Maternal Responsibilities & Discrimination

Despite the historical expectation from society for women to start a family, evidence suggests that female physicians who are mothers face many barriers for career development, experience discrimination from colleagues, and are held to different standards than the paternal parent or a physician father. The timing of having children during medical training has been a stressor for female physicians for decades and may not be appealing due to fear of further discrimination within their professional lives.(6,23) According to the literature, women have to take into a myriad of factors in order to determine the best time to have children during training or a professional career.(6,23) In fact, one study reports only 51% of women dermatologists report considering having children in residency. (24) Barriers to having children in residency include lack of maternity leave (or having to delay graduation with the potential for unpaid leave), the appearance of being less committed to residency in comparison to peers, and lack of time/privacy for breastfeeding.24 Not having children during medical education training may put women more at risk for infertility and the inability to start a family, as female physicians have been found to have infertility rates that are double the national average (24.1% vs 12.1%). (25)

Once female physicians do start a family, they experience bias and discrimination for being a mother. Of the 66.5% of 4507 respondents who reported experiencing gender discrimination, 35.8% of these respondents reported having experienced maternally-related discrimination. (4)

Female physicians who have children have reported receiving less institutional support, producing fewer publications and experiencing decreased career satisfaction. (6) The opportunity gap that women face in starting their career may in fact widen as they embark on the journey of being a mom in medicine, both due to maternal bias and due to their new set of priorities. Studies show that despite mor