Female docs spend more time parenting than male counterparts

Female physicians spend more time caring for their children than male physicians do, according to a study published in the March 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Examining gender differences in the nonprofessional responsibilities of physicians is particularly important because of growing evidence that female academic physicians are still not achieving career success at the same rate as their male colleagues,” wrote Shruti Jolly, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and co-authors.

They sent questionnaires to 1,708 academic physicians who received career development awards from the National Institutes of Health between 2006 and 2009. The surveys included questions that asked about the amount of time spend on parenting and domestic tasks. With the data from physicians who were married or had domestic partners and children, the researchers evaluated the relationship between time spent on domestic tasks, taking age, gender, race, specialty, MD or MD/PhD status, age of youngest child, number of children, work hours, award type and spouse or partner employment into account.

Of the physicians surveyed, 1,055 responded and 1,049 were included in the analysis (six physicians did not have academic appointments). Women’s spouses or partners were more likely to be employed full-time (85.6 percent vs. 44.9 percent). After adjusting for work hours, spousal employment and other factors, among the married or partnered respondents with children, women spent 8.5 more hours per week on domestic tasks.

Of the physicians whose spouses or partners were employed full-time, women were more likely to take time off because their child care routines were disrupted (42.6 percent vs. 12.4 percent).

The authors acknowledged that one of their study’s main limitations was the reliance on self-report and noted they were surprised that such a gender gap exists among Generation X physicians.

“Recognition of these trends is essential to allow for the development of appropriate, targeted interventions to ensure the ongoing vitality of the physician-researcher workforce and the medical profession more generally,” they wrote.