The full content of Annals is available to subscribers

Subscribe/Learn More  >
Academia and the Profession |

Gender Differences in Time Spent on Parenting and Domestic Responsibilities by High-Achieving Young Physician-Researchers

Shruti Jolly, MD; Kent A. Griffith, MS; Rochelle DeCastro, MS; Abigail Stewart, PhD; Peter Ubel, MD; and Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine and Center for Cancer Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Acknowledgment: The authors thank the K award recipients who took the time to participate in this study.

Grant Support: Dr. Jagsi was supported by the NIH (grant 5 R01 HL101997-04). Dr. Ubel was supported by grants from the NIH and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

Potential Conflicts of Interest: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M13-0974.

Requests for Single Reprints: Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, UHB2C490, SPC 5010, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5010; e-mail, rjagsi@med.umich.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Jolly and Jagsi: Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, UHB2C490, SPC 5010, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5010.

Mr. Griffith: Center for Cancer Biostatistics, M2180 SPHII, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029.

Ms. DeCastro: Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, North Campus Research Complex, 2800 Plymouth Road, Building 16, Room 430W, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800.

Dr. Stewart: Department of Psychology and Women's Studies Program, University of Michigan, 204 South State Street, G277B Lane Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1290.

Dr. Ubel: Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, 100 Fuqua Drive, Box 90120, Durham, NC 27708.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: S. Jolly, K.A. Griffith, P. Ubel, R. Jagsi.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: S. Jolly, K.A. Griffith, A. Stewart, R. Jagsi.

Drafting of the article: S. Jolly, K.A. Griffith, R. Jagsi.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: S. Jolly, K.A. Griffith, R. DeCastro, P. Ubel, R. Jagsi.

Final approval of the article: S. Jolly, K.A. Griffith, A. Stewart, R. Jagsi.

Provision of study materials or patients: R. Jagsi.

Statistical expertise: K.A. Griffith.

Obtaining of funding: R. Jagsi.

Administrative, technical, or logistic support: R. DeCastro.

Collection and assembly of data: R. DeCastro, R. Jagsi.

Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(5):344-353. doi:10.7326/M13-0974
Text Size: A A A

Background: Female physician-researchers do not achieve career success at the same rate as men. Differences in nonprofessional responsibilities may partially explain this gap.

Objective: To investigate the division of domestic labor by gender in a motivated group of early-career physician-researchers.

Design: Nationwide postal survey between 2010 and 2011.

Setting: United States.

Participants: Physician recipients of National Institutes of Health K08 or K23 awards between 2006 and 2009 with active academic affiliation at the time of the survey.

Measurements: Time spent on parenting and domestic tasks was determined through self-report. Among married or partnered respondents with children, a linear regression model of time spent on domestic activities was constructed considering age, gender, race, specialty, MD or MD/PhD status, age of youngest child, number of children, work hours, K award type, and spousal employment.

Results: A 74% response rate was achieved, and 1049 respondents were academic physicians. Women were more likely than men to have spouses or domestic partners who were employed full-time (85.6% [95% CI, 82.7% to 89.2%] vs. 44.9% [CI, 40.8% to 49.8%]). Among married or partnered respondents with children, after adjustment for work hours, spousal employment, and other factors, women spent 8.5 more hours per week on domestic activities. In the subgroup with spouses or domestic partners who were employed full-time, women were more likely to take time off during disruptions of usual child care arrangements than men (42.6% [CI, 36.6% to 49.0%] vs. 12.4% [CI, 5.4% to 19.5%]).

Limitations: Analyses relied on self-reported data. The study design did not enable investigation of the relationship between domestic activities and professional success.

Conclusion: In this sample of career-oriented professionals, gender differences in domestic activities existed among those with children. Most men's spouses or domestic partners were not employed full-time, which contrasted sharply with the experiences of women.

Primary Funding Source: National Institutes of Health.


Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1.

Study flow diagram.

Evolution of the analytic sample from the original pool of all 1719 respondents who received new K08 or K23 career development awards from the NIH in 2006–2009, by sex. NIH = National Institutes of Health.* Missing data from respondents.

Grahic Jump Location
Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2.

Median hours per week in domestic and paid labor activities, by sex.

Total hours devoted to paid and domestic labor by the men and women in a sample of respondents to a survey of recipients of National Institutes of Health K08 and K23 career development awards in 2006–2009.* Full-time employment.† “Single” includes those who indicated that they were divorced or widowed.

Grahic Jump Location




Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Submit a Comment/Letter
"Balance" is not a solution
Posted on March 20, 2014
Dena E. Rifkin MD, MS, Nisha Bansal MD, MAS, Esther K. Choo, MD, MPH
University of California, San Diego, and Veterans' Affairs Hospital, San Diego; University of Washington, Seattle; Brown University
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
To the editor:
As current NIH career development awardees who are also mothers with employed spouses,
we were not shocked to learn that women of our generation continue to bear a disproportionate
burden of domestic work in comparison to men, or that the amount of time women with children
devote to research is lower than that spent by their male counterparts (with a gap that is, not
coincidentally, roughly equal to the extra time doing domestic work).
What did shock us were the conclusions drawn by the editorialists. They state that the "true measure of a successful life in academic medicine... may no longer be measured in grants garnered, papers published, or salary attained but rather in the flexibility to balance" other life goals. At our institutions, the sine qua nons of a research-based academic career and promotion from the junior faculty state are grants and papers. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, grants and papers aren't everything -- they are the only thing. While there are other career trajectories now open in the world of academic medicine, the primarily research-funded academician still needs to produce publications and acquire independent funding to continue in that role and continue to advance up the academic ladder, regardless of gender.
We have each benefited from excellent mentors, both male and female, during our career
development grants. The advice we hear from these mentors is clear: moving from a K grant to
an independently funded research career is challenging and needs to be accomplished during
the five-year K grant timeline. This transition is one where many women researchers falter in
the academic track, either by switching to a different track or by failing to obtain funding. Not
coincidentally, this timeline overlaps with a period in which child-rearing is a distraction, albeit an enjoyable and rewarding one.
More radical solutions than a paean to 'balance' are needed to close the gender gap in
academic medicine which continues to include unequal pay and fewer opportunities for promotion among women. Individual women cannot continue to compensate for the inadequacies of systems. Hospitals and universities of the 21st century must consider how best to support women -- and not only women, in truth, but anyone with significant, time-consuming roles of childcare or other major family responsibilities -- so that they can have sustained, productive academic careers.
Sex and the Academy
Posted on March 23, 2014
Ann Danoff MD
New York University School of Medicine & Harbor HealthCare Veterans Administration
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
As a “baby boomer” and former K08 Awardee who leaked out of the academic pipeline (1) long ago, the grim observations by Jolly et. al. (2) regarding ongoing challenges among “Generation X” women to achieve gender equity in academic medical centers and on the home front is disheartening. However, the authors efforts to illuminate these unresolved issues and offer a glimmer of hope that one day we may find creative solutions, so that women who wish to do so are retained as productive and successful investigators, is reassuring.

In contrast, I found the accompanying editorial (3) deeply disturbing. While the editors acknowledge that “continued differences in standards are inexcusable”, they are much too quick to attribute ongoing gender inequity to “preferences” and “choices” made by women aiming to achieve work/life “balance”. As Jolly et. al. demonstrate (2), these so-called “choices” are strongly influenced by work and home environments. To de-emphasize the experience afforded women in academic medical centers (4) or the impact of the “Second Shift” (well described in the 1989 classic by Hochschild) on career decisions does a great disservice to the individual women involved. Examples of not being heard, not being credited for efforts at work, and pay inequity are commonplace among women in medicine, as are descriptions of how her husband “helps” with the childcare, followed in the next breadth by the acknowledgement that it is still her job to keep track of the supermarket list and soccer game schedule, and gently remind her partner to “please pick up the milk”.

I cannot agree more with Cooke and Laine that I have been personally blessed with a rich and varied professional career. However, it was, (arguably), neither by choice nor personal failings that I took this path, but rather, because the deck was stacked against me. It is regrettable that, like the women of my generation, female “Gen-X’ers” must still contend with “accumulated disadvantages” (the converse of “accumulated advantages” described by Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers”).

It appears we still have an awful lot of work to do. Until all doors are fully opened for each and every one of us (women, men, people of all colors and every sexual orientation), and each of us has equal opportunity for real choice about where on the bus (or in the medical community) we wish to sit, all of us will continue to be short-changed as individuals and as a society.

1. Justice AC. Leaky Pipes, Faustian Dilemmas, and a Room of One’s Own: Can We Build a More Flexible Pipeline to Academic Success? Ann Intern Med. 2009;151:818-819.

2. Jolly S, Griffith KA, DeCastro R, Stewart A, Ubel P, Jagsi R. Gender Differences in Time Spent on Parenting and Domestic Responsibilities by High-Achieving Young Physician-Researchers. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:344-353.

3. Cooke M, and Laine C. A Woman Physician-Researcher's Work Is Never Done. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:359-360.

4. Levine RB, Lin F, Kern DE, Wright SM, Carrese J. Stories From Early-Career Women Physicians Who Have Left Academic Medicine: A Qualitative Study at a Single Institution. Academic Medicine. 2011; 752-58.
Choice in a social context
Posted on March 24, 2014
Toni Martin MD
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

Perhaps the reason that the authors did not conclude, as the editorialists do, that the observed differences in parenting were due to simple choice, is that women, like men, make choices within a social context. Doris Rubin Bennett, former Chief of Pediatrics at Harvard Community Health Plan, added a postscript to a “lighthearted” career article when it was included in an anthology in 2002. “In 1961, I was the brainwashed product of my culture’s view of woman’s place in society.” At the time, she believed that she was choosing to take primary responsibility at home but looking back, she saw how constrained that choice was by society’s definition of a good wife and mother. The fact that 85% of the spouses of women physicians in the current study were employed full time while only 45% of the spouses of their male colleagues were, underlines the enduring strength of traditional gender roles.
Although successful, Dr. Bennett emphatically advocated for her younger colleagues. A woman doctor “… should be able to experience the joys and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood equally with her male colleague—but not more equally.”

Bennett, Doris Rubin. Postscript. In: Chin, Eliza Lo, editor. This Side of Doctoring: Reflections From Women in Medicine. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications;
2002. p. 31-32.
Author's Response
Posted on April 18, 2014
Reshma Jagsi, MD
University of Michigan
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
We appreciate the insights shared by these authors and thank them for providing such rich and vivid examples from female physicians’ lived experiences to complement the data we presented. We also appreciate the editors’ decision to publish these letters, which reflects their clear commitment to stimulating the sort of healthy discourse and debate that characterizes the academic enterprise at its best. Although we, like the authors of the letters, believe our findings are a sobering indication of powerful societal constraints on women’s choices even today, we are heartened by growing recognition of these issues and efforts by institutions to support physicians whose careers necessarily develop in this complex social context.

Submit a Comment/Letter

Summary for Patients

Clinical Slide Sets

Terms of Use

The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.


Buy Now for $32.00

to gain full access to the content and tools.

Want to Subscribe?

Learn more about subscription options

Related Articles
Topic Collections
PubMed Articles
Forgot your password?
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.