Results of a gender-climate and work-environment survey at a midwestern academic health center

Sharon W. Foster, Julia E. McMurray, Mark Linzer, Judith W. Leavitt, Marjorie Rosenberg, Molly Carnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Purpose. To determine how faculty's perceptions of medical school gender climate differ by gender, track, rank, and departmental affiliation. Method. In 1997, a 115-item questionnaire was sent to all University of Wisconsin Medical School faculty to assess their perceptions of mentoring, networking, professional environment, obstacles to a successful academic career, and reasons for considering leaving academic medicine. Using Fisher's exact two- tailed test, the authors assessed gender differences both overall and by track, rank, and departmental cluster. Results. Of the 836 faculty on tenure, clinician-educator, and clinical tracks, 507 (61%) responded. Although equal proportions of men and women had mentors, 24% of the women (compared with 6% of men; p < .001) felt that informal networking excluded faculty based on gender. Women's and men's perceptions differed significantly (p < .001) on 12 of 16 professional environment items (p < .05 on two of these items) and on five of six items regarding obstacles to academic success. While similar percentages of women and men indicated having seriously considered leaving academic medicine, their reasons differed: women cited work-family conflicts (51%), while men cited uncompetitive salaries (59%). These gender differences generally persisted across tracks, ranks, and departmental clusters. The greatest gender differences occurred among clinician-educators, associate professors, and primary care faculty. Conclusions. Women faculty perceived that gender climate created specific, serious obstacles to their professional development. Many of those obstacles (e.g., inconvenient meeting times and lack of child care) are remediable. These data suggest that medical schools can improve the climate and retain and promote women by more inclusive networking, attention to meeting times and child care, and improved professional interactions between men and women faculty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-660
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


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