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April 2014 Bulletin: Women in Medicine

Study: Gender Differences in Time Spent on Domestic Responsibilities by Young Physician-Researchers

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, March 4, 2014

Female physician-researchers in general do not achieve career success at the same rate as men. Differences in nonprofessional responsibilities may partially explain this gap. According to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, female physicians spend more time than male physicians on parenting and household tasks.

Study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Health System, said "One might expect that within a highly educated Generation X population there would be a relatively even distribution of domestic labor. But what we found was that there still seems to be a difference in the expectations at home for men and women, even for those with very busy jobs, even today."

The majority of women in the sample were married to full-time working spouses, whereas most men's spouses were not employed full-time. Among married physicians with children, men reported working 7 hours longer and spending 12 fewer hours on parenting and domestic tasks each week than women. But even when accounting for a spouse's employment and other factors, women spent 8.5 hours more than men on parenting and domestic tasks.

This means that women may be more likely to forgo their research time. If research time is sacrificed, it directly affects the physician's success in an academic career.

The researchers suggest that possible interventions, such as providing onsite child care at conferences, allowing the use of funding available to maintain a nanny during conference travel, or providing subsidies for certain household tasks, could help reduce the conflict between professional and domestic roles.

Dr. Jagsi noted that there is a need to facilitate work-life balance for both men and women, but that it is more of a challenge to women than men in our society.

Journal Reference:
Shruti Jolly, Kent A. Griffith, Rochelle DeCastro, Abigail Stewart, Peter Ubel, Reshma Jagsi. Gender Differences in Time Spent on Parenting and Domestic Responsibilities by High-Achieving Young Physician-Researchers. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014 http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1834170

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