4 insights on why female physicians may be less engaged with their work

Roughly 84 percent of female physicians identified as not being fully engaged with their work and unlikely to stay at their current organization, compared with 78 percent of men, according to a recent athenahealth report.

To explain the discrepancy, athenahealth assembled a panel of female physician leaders to discuss the disparity and provide additional insight into why female physicians may be less engaged.

Here are four insights from various female physicians comprising the panel.

1. "You'll find women are the medical directors of clinics or in on-the-ground leadership roles but not really as the folks up at the big table," said Manisha Sharma, MD, a family physician and director of primary care and community health at Cerritos, Calif.-based CareMore Health System. "Having a voice with leadership and being a part of the solution — that's what engagement means to me. I think the difference with women is that having a family, when that does happen, becomes more of a priority. So, then they shift to a get-in, get-out mindset."

2. "When you think of a woman physician, you think somebody who's going to be calm, caring and always empathetic. That expectation leads to burnout among women physicians, because they're striving for perfection that doesn't exist," said Vineet Arora, MD, an associate professor of medicine and assistant dean for scholarship and diversity at the University of Chicago.

3. "Women are less worried about the title. They're less worried about the corner office and more concerned with how close they are to the teams that need to get the job done. The trappings that traditionally mark leadership don't matter, so we don't seek them. But that may set us back in terms of our progression, because others may see us as not as driven if we don't compete. The perception is that she isn't as strong of a leader," said Mary Benzik, MD, CMO of Sussex, Wis.-based QuadMed and former CMO of Trinity Health in Livonia, Mich.

4. "You would think women leaders would be very supportive of the women coming up, but in fact, my experience has been that sometimes the women leaders that are at the top are the most critical of the junior women that are coming up. And it's because they were held to such a high standard, it's a Catch-22," said Dr. Arora. "Their ride made it easier for me to come, but they resent the fact that my ride is easier."

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