A second difficulty is related to tensions between professional and personal life which seem to be especially acute for women in academic medicine. Brown et al. report that “the demands of career and personal life [are] each great enough to extract compromise from the other, and, further, that anticipated support from a partner, the community, and medical center was inadequate to make it possible to succeed in multiple roles at once.” Bickel and colleagues note that academic medicine tends to “reward unrestricted availability to work (i.e., neglect of personal life).” Furthermore, as in other fields, the pressures of the tenure timeline in academic medicine often coincide with decisions (and associated pressures) to start a family.

Potential Policy Options

Potential policy actions to redress those problems focus on adjusting the institutional environment in a way that improves the experiences of both male and female faculty. Improving the quality of professional development programs for all faculty has proven effective in addressing culture and climate issuesd (Chapter 4 and Box 6-3). Other suggestions are to:

  • Improve department mentoring programs, including providing guidance to male faculty on how to be effective mentors for female faculty.

  • Address the tensions between work and personal lives and obligations.

  • Identify which institutional practices tend to favor men’s over women’s professional development and rebalance them to value the institution’s goals in a gender-neutral way.

  • Recognize models of career success based on quality rather than quantity, so that people can craft careers that both serve the institution’s needs and harmonize with their own core values.

  • Place more value on accomplishments accruing from collaborative work.

  • Provide more flexibility for part-time work.

  • Adjust tenure policies.

  • Provide options for partner hiring programs and childcare.


dLP Fried, CA Francomano, SM MacDonald, EM Wagner, EJ Stokes, KM Carbone, WB Bias, MM Newman, and JD Stobo (1996). Career development for women in academic medicine: Multiple interventions in a department of medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association 276(11):898-905; S Mark, H Link, PS Morahan, L Pololi, V Reznik, and S Tropez-Sims (2001). Innovative mentoring programs to promote gender equity in academic medicine. Academic Medicine 76:39-42.

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