The glass ceiling thickens: the impact of COVID-19 on academic medicine faculty in the United States

Med Educ Online. 2022 Dec;27(1):2058314. doi: 10.1080/10872981.2022.2058314.


The inequities faced by women in academic Medicine before the COVID-19 pandemic are well established. However, there is little formal data regarding exactly how the pandemic has affected faculty. This cross-sectional study investigated the impact of the pandemic on responsibilities at home, work, and mental health according to gender identification, faculty rank, and faculty appointment. In February 2021, an online questionnaire was broadly distributed to academic medicine faculty. Respondents were asked to provide demographic data, answer questions about their responsibilities at home and work, mental health, and how the pandemic has influenced these. Respondents were also asked to document what their institution(s) can do to help faculty through the pandemic. Responses were analyzed via Pearson's chi-square tests and thematic analysis. Women faculty were more likely to be responsible for the care of others (70%, p = 0.014), and the impact was negative, especially for early career faculty (p = 0.019). Productivity in research, teaching, and clinical practice were negatively impacted, with women feeling this in clinical practice (p = 0.005), increased teaching load (p = 0.042), and inadequate work environment (p = 0.013). In the areas of self-care and mental health, women (p < 0.001), early career-faculty (p < 0.001), and clinical faculty (p = 0.029) were more negatively impacted. Early-career women were more likely to fear retribution. Five themes emerged, including Flexible Expectations, Support, Mental Health, Compensation, and Communication. Pre-pandemic stress and burnout were rampant, and this study demonstrates that academic medicine faculty are still suffering. It is the authors' hope that administrations can utilize these data to make informed decisions regarding policies enacted to assist populations who are most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; academic medicine faculty; childcare; mental health; women.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Efficiency
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • United States / epidemiology

Grants and funding

The author(s) reported there is no funding associated with the work featured in this article.