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Thompson-Burdine JA, Telem DA, Waljee JF, et al. Defining Barriers and Facilitators to Advancement for Women in Academic Surgery. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(8):e1910228. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.10228
What are the perceived barriers and facilitators to promotion and professional success for women in academic surgery?
In this qualitative study of 26 female academic surgeons, a complex matrix of organizational and individual factors was found to contribute to sex inequities for the professional advancement of women in academic surgery.
This research may provide insight into the sex biases that inhibit advancement, may inform strategies that can facilitate progress, and may inspire interventions that could help eliminate institutional and individual barriers to the academic success of women.
Sex equity is elusive in academic surgery departments across the United States. Persistent inequities remain a considerable problem and inhibit professional advancement for female surgeons. Identifying the factors that promulgate sex discrepancies may provide a framework for institutional growth and personal progress for women.
To identify barriers and facilitators to success at the individual and organizational level to develop evidence-based interventions designed to close the sex gap in surgery.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This qualitative study included 26 female participants who were current and former surgical faculty employed by Michigan Medicine, the health system of the University of Michigan, between 2000 and 2017. Semistructured personal interviews were conducted from June 28 to September 29, 2017, via telephone. Each interview lasted 45 minutes to 1 hour. Interviews were recorded and then transcribed for analysis.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The interview included 7 questions referring to the surgeon’s experience with the Michigan Medicine Department of Surgery and 7 questions referring to nonspecific areas of interest.
The 26 participants in this study ranged in age from 32 to 64 years, with faculty experience ranging from 3 to 22 years. Thematic analysis was used to locate, analyze, and report patterns within the data related to barriers and facilitators for women in academic medicine. Three major themes were identified by researchers. Participants reported that (1) organizational culture and institutional policies affect opportunities for advancement; (2) relational interactions with leadership, mentors, colleagues, and staff affect promotion and attrition; and (3) individual characteristics mediate the perception of professional and personal success.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this qualitative study of 26 female academic surgeons, a complex matrix of organizational and individual factors were found to contribute to sex inequities in academic surgery. This research may provide insight into the sex biases that inhibit advancement, may inform strategies that facilitate progress, and may inspire interventions that could help eliminate institutional and individual barriers to the academic success of women.
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