September 26, 2022
5 minutes to read
- Among the doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, women were more likely to experience the struggles of family work, work, and family.
- Three of the study’s authors spoke with Healio about the findings and how systemic effects negatively impact flexibility.
CHICAGO — The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender inequality among frontline health care workers, according to research presented at the Women in Medicine Summit.
The CT survey, conducted via email from April 2021 to June 2021, included 150 physicians at the University of Minnesota and M Health systems. Among them, 56.6% reported having worked on the front lines during the pandemic. Of these, 64.8% were women.
The researchers used validated measures to better understand how gender and the epidemic affect academic clinicians. These measures included the Work-Family/Family and Work Conflict Scale, the Work Independence Scale, the Brief Adaptation Resilience Scale, the Brief Resilience Scale, and the Patient Health Questionnaire-4.
Overall, there was no significant difference between frontline physicians and non-frontline physicians, according to the researchers. They found that male frontline physicians had higher resilience scores than female frontline physicians, but female frontline physicians faced higher conflicts between family work and work and family. This may be due to structural, systemic, and societal influences “that may negatively impact resilience, such as implicit gender bias and micro-aggression in the workplace,” the researchers wrote.
To find out more about the results, Helio spoke with Seema Patel, MD, FAESAnd the Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, member of the Center for Women in Medicine and Science – Salary, Resources, and Leadership Equity Working Group, member of the Gender Equality Task Force of the American Medical Association; Jerica Berg, Ph.D.And the MPH, LMFTAnd the Professor, Vice President for Research, and Director of the Center for Women in Medicine and Science as well as the Women’s Health Research Program/Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine; And the Kate Macchildt, MPHAnd the Administrative Coordinator with the Center for Women in Medicine and BIRCWH Program Coordinator.
Helio: Your study found that women may experience a higher level Conflict between family and works And the Conflict between work and familys comparison with Men because of gender roles. Can you expand on that, and gender roles in the workplace?
Battle: Women across the United States discussed the unprecedented demands of the COVID pandemic and how this has exacerbated existing gender disparities for many women. Recent studies have highlighted the disproportionate burden on women to provide home and childcare. Furthermore, we know that medical professionals in general experience family and work inconsistencies at higher rates than other professions. There is an opportunity for healthcare organizations to better understand/recognize the domestic workload experienced by many healthcare workers. For many working moms, going home and looking after their family is a second, full-time job. During the pandemic, child care and home support for many professional women have been withdrawn, and most health care institutions do not have specific strategies to provide support in these areas to health care workers, especially frontline clinical faculty. If we want frontline female physicians to be more engaged, thrive in business, stay in academic medicine and engage in innovation and leadership, we must understand and remove barriers.
Macchildt: We used a validated two-way scale that measures family-work and work-family conflicts and found that among clinical faculty, frontline women workers were higher. [family-work conflict] (q = .004) and above [work-family conflicts] (q = .021).
Helio: What role, if any, do you think implicit bias plays in this?
Battle: Although we have not studied this, it is possible that implicit bias may play a role within the partnership regarding the burden of domestic work and childcare. Many professional women negotiate gender role expectations, household responsibilities, childcare, the mental load of running a home and career aspirations. It’s important to be aware of our and our partners’ biases, and then have healthy, equitable conversations and distribute labor to create a healthy family.
Helio: Do you think that analyzing other demographics such as race and socioeconomic status might lead to different results?
Battle: In our study, we captured the demographics of races; However, the majority of respondents working on the front lines were not underrepresented in medicine, so we cannot draw conclusions about this. These differences are likely to be recorded in a larger sample. Socioeconomic status data may also be useful; However, we did not request this data and cannot draw conclusions.
Helio: How can these problems be solved? What do you think should be done to treat it?
Berg: This is a great question. Women in Academic Medicine are ambitious and make a meaningful contribution to advancing innovative research, medical education, leadership, and advocacy. Thus, we need to create environments that support women in staying in academic medicine because we know from previous research that many of them are leaving, and that the pandemic has increased that exit. Disagreement between work and family is one of the main reasons for women faculty to leave academic medicine. Our study findings regarding work and family conflict have implications for institutions wishing to retain female faculty, especially after the pandemic. For example, it is important for institutions to provide support to women, especially with regard to childcare and domestic responsibilities.
Macchildt: In addition, it is helpful to understand what a faculty member may encounter with household responsibilities during a pandemic and these circumstances should not be used against that individual. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed promotion for many women and lowered academic productivity. It would be useful to assess and adjust promotion and tenure policies so that women do not feel the added burden of gender disparities in academic careers and “lateness” in the face of the pandemic. The Work, Family, and Family Work Conflict Scale assesses conflict at multiple levels, including demands, time, and effort. Organizations must consider policies, practices, and workplace cultures that support the well-being of their workforce and that enhance opportunities for conflict.
Helio: Can you discuss why this issue is so important that it deserves more attention?
Battle: If we are to care for a diverse group of patients and provide education for the next generation of scientists and clinicians, we need that diverse representation in our leadership and faculty. Women leave academic medicine for many reasons, and their contribution to this field is of paramount importance. More than 50 percent of medical school graduates are women; However, the workforce has a lower proportion of female faculty because women are leaving medicine. We have to understand and remove barriers to allow for diverse representation in leadership, research, and education.
Helio: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Berg: This study is a sub-analysis of a larger project assessing the live experiences of academic medicine faculty during COVID-19. Additional findings come from the Center for Women in Medicine and Science’s portfolio, including projects looking at intersection frameworks, telemedicine, the experiences of leaders, caregivers and more. We all have a responsibility to be an ally to those underrepresented in medicine/science if we are to create an inclusive and diverse society.
- Patel S et al. Academic front-line clinics Well-being and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: Were there gender differences? Filed In: Women’s Summit in Medicine; 16-17 September 2022; Chicago (mixed meeting).