Research Horizons


COVID-19 and its Effects on Female Physicians

Post authored by Yemisi Jones, MD.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many aspects of our lives and society upside down. As a working mother and academic physician, I have faced many of the same challenges as other working professionals. Women in our society (including physicians) continue to face inequities that follow us through all levels of our careers. In this piece published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, my colleagues and I detail concerns about how the pandemic can aggravate these inequities, including increasing demands at home, physical and mental health (including burnout), and a worsening leadership and compensation gap.

Women now comprise at least half of matriculating medical students, but as one moves up the chain of leadership, there are fewer and fewer women at the top. This phenomenon has been called a leaky pipeline, and the reasons for it are multifactorial. There also remains a persistent compensation gap between men and women. We know from recent studies that female physicians continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid caregiving duties in the home. This means that while the pandemic disruptions have affected all of us, there are particular career consequences for physicians with other caregiving duties.

Many of us have experienced dramatic changes in the way we work, both clinically and non-clinically. The move to working from home coupled with school closures, limitations in nursing home visitation, and travel restrictions have made life more complicated to say the least. Scrambling to secure childcare amidst shrinking options, homeschooling, and navigating care for elderly relatives while maintaining clinical and academic work was made more challenging with stay-at-home orders. The decisions around returning to school have not made life less complicated for many.

While the pandemic takes center stage and consumes institutional resources and priorities, equity efforts must not be sidelined or we stand to lose recent gains and a further worsening of inequities. We recommend a proactive approach including the collection of de-aggregated data, reaching out to understand the struggles female physicians are encountering, allowing for flexibility with promotion and tenure guidelines, as well as recognizing contributions from female faculty that often get overlooked but that are critical to optimal team functioning during this stressful time.

Publication Information
Original title: Collateral Damage: How COVID-19 Is Adversely Impacting Women Physicians
Published in: Journal of Hospital Medicine
Publish date: July 20, 2020
Read the Perspective Article