Gender Differences and Work–Life Integration among Head and Neck Surgeons

As a whole, head and neck surgeons are highly satisfied with their career choice. Fewer women, however, are lacking in senior academic positions, and more remain unmarried with fewer children when compared with their male counterparts. This is the main finding of a study that assessed the association of gender difference with the perceived quality of life among head and neck surgeons (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg [published online ahead of print March 21, 2019]. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.0104).

Investigators sent a web-based survey to members of the American Head and Neck Society to assess daily lifestyle and quality of life. The survey consisted of 37 questions on demographics, academic status, mentorship experience, daily lifestyle, family life, personal health, and job satisfaction. Of the 261 respondents, 71 (27.2%) were women and 190 (72.8%) men. By age, 38 (71%) women were between 30 and 50 years of age compared to 93 (49%) men and one woman was older than 60 years compared to 24 (18%) of men aged 60 to 70 years and six (3.2%) older than 70 years.

Following are the key findings of the study:

  • Most worked in an academic institution: 66 (92.5%) women and 152 (80%) men.
  • Associate professors: 20/64 (31%) women and 37/152 (24%) men.
  • Professors: 18/64 (28%) women and 72/152 (47%) men.
  • Department chairs: 4 (6.2%) women and 23 (17.6%) men.
  • Single (not in a long-term relationship or divorced): 18 (25%) women and 6 (3.25%) men.
  • Children: mean of 1.18 (median of 1) for women and mean of 2.29 (median of 2) for men.
  • Mean age of having a first child: 35.1 years for women, 31.9 years for men.
  • Felt family life was limited compared to other otolaryngological subspecialties: 45 (67.2%) of women and 117 (61.9%) of men.

Despite these disparities, both women and men reported a good work-life balance (55.2% and 53.4%, respectively).“In spite of head and neck surgery being a highly demanding subspecialty within otolaryngology, women and men report equivalently high levels of satisfaction with their career choice,” said senior author Amy Chen, MD, MPH, Willard and Lillian Hackerman Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty Development, department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “However, we as a specialty need to improve women’s representation in senior leadership.”

“The lower rates of married women and fewer children among women head and neck surgeons deserve further examination in order to ensure that these women have joy in their home life,” she added.

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