Relation of family responsibilities and gender to the productivity and career satisfaction of medical faculty

Ann Intern Med. 1998 Oct 1;129(7):532-8. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-129-7-199810010-00004.


Background: Studies have found that female faculty publish less, have slower career progress, and generally have a more difficult time in academic careers than male faculty. The relation of family (dependent) responsibilities to gender and academic productivity is unclear.

Objective: To describe dependent responsibilities by gender and to identify their relation to the aspirations, goals, rate of progress, academic productivity, and career satisfaction of male and female medical school faculty.

Design: 177-item survey questionnaire.

Setting: 24 randomly selected medical schools in the contiguous United States.

Participants: 1979 respondents from a probability sample of full-time academic medical school faculty.

Measurements: The main end point for measuring academic productivity was the total number of publications in refereed journals. Perceived career progress and career satisfaction were assessed by using Likert scales.

Results: For both male and female faculty, more than 90% of time devoted to family responsibilities was spent on child care. Among faculty with children, women had greater obstacles to academic careers and less institutional support, including research funding from their institutions (46% compared with 57%; P < 0.001) and secretarial support (0.68 full-time equivalents compared with 0.83 full-time equivalents; P = 0.003), than men. Compared with men with children, women with children had fewer publications (18.3 compared with 29.3; P < 0.001), slower self-perceived career progress (2.6 compared with 3.1; P < 0.001), and lower career satisfaction (5.9 compared with 6.6; P < 0.001). However, no significant differences between the sexes were seen for faculty without children.

Conclusions: Compared with female faculty without children and compared with men, female faculty with children face major obstacles in academic careers. Some of these obstacles can be easily modified (for example, by eliminating after-hours meetings and creating part-time career tracks). Medical schools should address these obstacles and provide support for faculty with children.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Institutional Practice
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Women
  • Publishing
  • Regression Analysis
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Schools, Medical
  • Sex Factors*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States