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Analysis

3 Keys to Better Recruitment and Retention of Female Physicians

By Debra Shute  
   March 09, 2017

Despite reporting high career satisfaction rates, female cardiologists experience discrimination nearly three times as often as men. Here's what to do about it.

Much has changed in medicine throughout the past 20 years, not the least of which is the growing prevalence of female physicians, who now make up about half of medical students.

What hasn't improved as much is women physicians' representation in the field of cardiology—at around 13%—while heart disease has remained the nation's leading cause of death for both genders.

This disparity makes it difficult for female heart patients to find a cardiologist of the same gender, which many patients prefer, says Martha Gulati, MD, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and Physician Executive Director for the Banner – University Medicine Cardiovascular Institute.

She recently co-authored a paper for the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examining how the role of the cardiologist has changed over the past two decades.


Why Female Physicians Achieve Better Outcomes Than Males


"Personally, I think cardiology is a great career for men and women," she says.

In fact, 90% of male cardiologists and 88% of female cardiologists surveyed in 2015 reported that they were "moderately or very satisfied" with their careers, versus 92% and 80%, respectively, in 1996.

Despite High Overall Job Satisfaction, Gender Imbalances Persist
While the proportion of men reporting any type of discrimination has remained close to 22% over the past two decades, the rate of women experiencing discrimination is still nearly triple, at 65%. It has decreased, however, from 71% in 1996.

The types of discrimination reported by female cardiologists ranged from inappropriate sexual comments to what the researchers termed "parenting discrimination," Gulati says.

This might occur if a parent "were leaving work or couldn't make a meeting, which would result in them not being included in certain things," she says.

"Comments might be made such as, 'OK, go home, Mom.' And that is not the environment we want to create when trying to get more women into our field."

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.


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