Women Oncologists' Perceptions and Factors Associated with Decisions to Pursue Academic vs Nonacademic Careers in Oncology

Emily C. Merfeld, Grace C. Blitzer, Aleksandra Kuczmarska-Haas, Susan C. Pitt, Fumiko Chino, Trang Le, Wendy A. Allen-Rhoades, Suzanne Cole, Ariela L. Marshall, Molly Carnes, Reshma Jagsi, Narjust Duma

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Women outnumber men in US medical school enrollment, but they represent less than 40% of academic oncology faculty. Objective: To identify the key factors associated with female oncologists' decision to pursue academic or nonacademic oncology practice and to characterize their perceptions about their current career. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional survey study was distributed through email and social media to female physicians in academic and nonacademic oncology practice in the United States. The survey was open for 3 months, from August 1 to October 31, 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: No single primary study outcome was established because of the cross-sectional nature of the survey. Data were collected anonymously and analyzed using t tests for continuous variables and χ2tests for categorical variables. Results: Among the 667 female respondents, 422 (63.2%) identified as academic oncologists and 245 (36.8%) identified as nonacademic oncologists. Approximately 25% of respondents reported that their spouse or partner (156 [23.5%]) and/or family (176 [26.4%]) extremely or moderately affected their decision to pursue academic practice. Academic oncologists perceived the biggest sacrifice of pursuing academics to be time with loved ones (181 [42.9%]). Nonacademic oncologists perceived the biggest sacrifice of pursuing academics to be pressure for academic promotion (102 [41.6%]). Respondents had different perceptions of how their gender affected their ability to obtain a chosen job, with 116 academic oncologists (27.6%) and 101 nonacademic oncologists (41.2%) reporting a positive or somewhat positive impact (P =.001). More than half of the women surveyed (54.6% academic oncologists [230]; 50.6% nonacademic oncologists [123]; P =.61) believed they were less likely to be promoted compared with male colleagues. Academic and nonacademic oncologists reported rarely or never having a sense of belonging in their work environment (33 [7.9%] and 5 [2.0%]; P <.001). Most respondents reported that they would choose the same career path again (301 academic oncologists [71.3%]; 168 nonacademic oncologists [68.6%]); however, 92 academic oncologists (21.9%) reported they were likely to pursue a career outside of academic oncology in the next 5 years. Conclusions and Relevance: This survey study found that a spouse or partner and/or family were factors in the career choice of both academic and nonacademic oncologists and that female gender was largely perceived to adversely affect job promotion. Given that more than 20% of female academic oncologists were considering leaving academia, gender inequality is at high risk of continuing if the culture is not addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere200708
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume4
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 30 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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