The ACC professional life survey: career decisions of women and men in cardiology. A report of the Committee on Women in Cardiology. American College of Cardiology

M C Limacher, C A Zaher, M N Walsh, W J Wolf, P S Douglas, J B Schwartz, J S Wright, D P Bodycombe
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 1998, 32 (3): 827-35

OBJECTIVES: This survey was conducted to learn how the career decisions of women and men in cardiology influenced their professional and personal lives.

BACKGROUND: Women represent only 5% of practicing adult cardiologists and 10% of trainees. Yet, women and men now enter medical school at nearly equal numbers. The factors that contribute to career satisfaction in cardiology should be identified to permit the development of future strategies to ensure that the best possible candidates are attracted to the profession.

METHODS: A questionnaire developed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Cardiology of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) was mailed in March 1996 to all 964 female ACC members and an age-matched sample of 1,199 male members who had completed cardiovascular training.

RESULTS: Women were more likely to describe their primary or secondary role as a clinical/noninvasive than invasive cardiologist (p < 0.0001 women vs. men). Men and women both reported a high level of satisfaction with family life, but women were less satisfied with their work as cardiologists (88% vs. 92%, p < 0.01) and with their level of financial compensation. Compared with men, women expressed less overall satisfaction (69% vs. 84%) and more dissatisfaction with their ability to achieve professional goals (21% vs. 9%). These differences were most pronounced for women in academic practice. Women reported greater family responsibilities, which may limit their opportunities for career advancement. Women were more likely to alter training or practice focus to avoid radiation. A majority of women (71%) reported gender discrimination, whereas only 21% of men reported any discrimination, largely due to race, religion or foreign origin.

CONCLUSIONS: Women cardiologists report overall lower satisfaction with work and advancement, particularly within academic practice. They report more discrimination, more concerns about radiation and more limitations due to family responsibilities, which may ultimately explain the low percentage of women in cardiology. Attention to these issues may result in programs to improve professional satisfaction and attract the best candidates into cardiology in the future.

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