A Randomized Controlled Trial to Improve the Success of Women Assistant Professors

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 May;26(5):571-579. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.6025. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


Background: Given the persistent disparity in the advancement of women compared with men faculty in academic medicine, it is critical to develop effective interventions to enhance women's careers. We carried out a cluster-randomized, multifaceted intervention to improve the success of women assistant professors at a research-intensive medical school.

Materials and methods: Twenty-seven departments/divisions were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups. The three-tiered intervention included components that were aimed at (1) the professional development of women assistant professors, (2) changes at the department/division level through faculty-led task forces, and (3) engagement of institutional leaders. Generalized linear models were used to test associations between assignment and outcomes, adjusting for correlations induced by the clustered design.

Results: Academic productivity and work self-efficacy improved significantly over the 3-year trial in both intervention and control groups, but the improvements did not differ between the groups. Average hours worked per week declined significantly more for faculty in the intervention group as compared with the control group (-3.82 vs. -1.39 hours, respectively, p = 0.006). The PhD faculty in the intervention group published significantly more than PhD controls; however, no differences were observed between MDs in the intervention group and MDs in the control group.

Conclusions: Significant improvements in academic productivity and work self-efficacy occurred in both intervention and control groups, potentially due to school-wide intervention effects. A greater decline in work hours in the intervention group despite similar increases in academic productivity may reflect learning to "work smarter" or reveal efficiencies brought about as a result of the multifaceted intervention. The intervention appeared to benefit the academic productivity of faculty with PhDs, but not MDs, suggesting that interventions should be more intense or tailored to specific faculty groups.

Keywords: academic medicine; faculty development; women in medicine; women's careers in medicine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Career Mobility*
  • Efficiency
  • Faculty, Medical* / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Pennsylvania
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Self Efficacy
  • United States
  • Work-Life Balance