Female physicians and leadership: 10 things to know

More women are becoming physicians, medical residents and fellows, but the same cannot be said of physician leadership roles, according to Medscape's recent "Women as Physician Leaders Report."

In fact, women represent a relatively small number of division chief, medical school dean, department chair and hospital CEO roles. To find out more about women's participation and interest in leadership positions, Medscape surveyed more than 3,200 female physicians across all specialties.

For the sake of the survey, women were identified as "leaders" if they held one or more positions of leadership in their main practice setting, a professional organization or an academic department.

Highlighted below are 10 findings from the report.

[Note: Percentages may not always add up to 100 percent, due to rounding or because survey respondents could choose more than one answer.]

1. Of all the female physicians surveyed, 88 percent say that leadership in the workplace is important for women in general. On a personal level, 76 percent of women who self-identified as holding a leadership position and almost half (42 percent) of nonleaders said that leadership is a very or somewhat important goal.

2. Among women who self-identified as a leader, the highest percentage reported being medical directors (35 percent), followed by other (26 percent), practice owner (23 percent) and hospital committee leader (15 percent).

3. More than half (57 percent) of the women who self-identified as a leader said maintaining a leadership position in their main practice is very important. They were less likely to say maintaining a leadership position in academia (52 percent) or a professional organization (40 percent) is very important.

4. Women who did not self-identify as a leader were much more likely to say maintaining a leadership position is only somewhat important (versus very important) in their main practice setting (32 percent versus 12 percent), academia (16 percent versus 4 percent) or professional organization (15 percent versus 4 percent).

5. For leaders and nonleaders alike, the top three reasons women pursue leadership positions are to be a positive influence for others in the organization (70 percent leaders, 49 percent nonleaders), to effect change (68 percent, 57 percent) and to be able to shape their own path more so than would be possible in a lower position (53 percent, 35 percent).

6. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of the women who self-identified as a leader said excelling at their job is what helped them attain their position. Nonleaders ranked building alliances (60 percent) as the top factor that might help them attain a leadership position.

7. Not having time to complete work and work-personal life conflicts are the top challenges experienced or anticipated by leaders and nonleaders.

8. When offered a job, female physicians are more than twice as likely to try negotiating a higher salary versus a better job title.

9. Roughly one third (between 30 and 39 percent) of the female physicians surveyed had asked for a promotion at some point in their career, and roughly half received the promotion they sought.

10. Despite work getting in the way of their personal lives, most leaders (72 percent) and nonleaders (63 percent) report being somewhat or very happy with their work lives.





More articles on women in healthcare:
Female anesthesiologists earn 30% less than male peers: 5 things to know
5 strategies to even the gender playing field at academic medical centers
Dr. Mary Jo Gorman on female entrepreneurial leadership in medicine, health IT & beyond

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