In a recently released article in Pediatrics(10.1542/peds.2018-2926), Dr. Amy Starmer and colleagues use 2015 data from the AAP Pediatrician Life and Career Experience Study (PLACES) to examine the timely topic of work life balance with respect to gender differences among early and mid-career pediatricians. PLACES is a longitudinal study of early career pediatricians conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Both AAP and non-AAP members are included, and of those originally randomly selected for participation, 41% enrolled. The authors asked the following questions: (1) to what extent female versus male pediatricians spend more time on household responsibilities, (2) whether gender is associated with work-life balance attainment and household responsibility sharing, and (3) what the barriers are to work-life balance, and how these might be overcome. In this cross-sectional study, 1,293 pediatricians (72% of PLACES participants) provided data, of whom 64.3% were female, 88.4% were married or partnered, and 79.2% were parents.
The study results are not entirely unexpected: female pediatricians were more likely than male pediatricians to have responsibility both for 6 of 9 household responsibilities (e.g. laundry, cooking, cleaning) and for all 7 responsibilities related to caring for one’s own children (e.g. getting ready in the morning, going to bed at night, school activities). Having children under age 18 years and being female were the two factors significantly associated with all (except household budgeting) responsibilities. I note that the household responsibility most frequently endorsed as, “Largely, I do” by women (versus “shared” or “partner does”) was “coordinating schedules.” In other words, “we [women] run this!” Both the upsides and the downsides of assuming this role are the hard burden, potential joy and responsibility of making sure everything happens and everything works. Once carried over to the workplace, this organizational skill set is profoundly useful.
Other results are more nuanced, and Table 1, for example, walks us through “Factors associated with rushed all the time, satisfied with share of responsibilities, and success balancing job and other areas of life,” including not just gender, but subspecialty, income and other descriptors. Table 2 includes themes identified in responses to the query, “What has been your greatest challenge in trying to balance your work and personal responsibilities?” with “tips” to overcome barriers: this is definitely a key study table for readers.
Overall, the result that intrigued me the most was the potential for part-time work to mitigate many of the challenges associated with work-life balance satisfaction. Working part-time recurred as a theme, even though only 20% of participants (30% of women and 2.4% of men) were doing so. Working part-time was significantly negatively associated in adjusted analyses with feeling rushed all the time, and significantly positively associated with both feeling satisfied with one’s share of responsibilities and with success balancing job and other areas of life, each of which are main outcomes. We can and should debate the challenges of working part-time outside the home with respect to career trajectory, but this alternative should not be dismissed out of hand either peremptorily or as a gender-biased solution. Given preliminary data on the potential for increased career satisfaction and achievement with part-time work, more research is clearly needed. 1 In the meantime, I think you will really enjoy this well-written article which challenges us all to come to the table to tackle this important topic.
- Menashe SJ, Parisi MT, Chapman T, Stanescu AL, Wright JN, Otto RK, Iyer RS. Part-Time Pediatric Radiology: The Realities and Perceptions of Part-Time Employment in the Academic Setting. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2018; 211:971-977. doi: 10.2214/AJR.18.19922.