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Continued Challenges for Women in Cardiology

CardioSmart News

Female cardiologists remain underrepresented and continue to face more work-life challenges than men, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

Conducted by the American College of Cardiology in 2015, this study surveyed more than 2,000 cardiologists about their personal and professional experiences while working in the field. The study was a follow-up to previous surveys conducted in 1996 and 2006, which identified a need for more women in cardiology. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go in achieving equality and work-life balance for women in the field.

Based on survey responses, female cardiologists were three times as likely to be single compared to their male counterparts. Only 72% of women reported having children, while 86% of men reported having children. Nearly half of women reported needing extra child care for nights and on-call rotations, as compared to just a quarter of men.

Nearly two-thirds of women also reported experiencing past discrimination, and women were more likely to say their professional advancement was lower than their peers.

The good news is that we have seen some improvements for women in cardiology over the past 20 years. The proportion of women reporting discrimination has decreased since 1996, and 7 out of 8 cardiologists reported overall satisfaction with their careers. Fewer women (and men) also reported no official family leave policy at their workplace, suggesting that more workplaces have adopted such policies.

Still, we have a long way to go, according to researchers.

“I’m very concerned that we haven’t seen much growth in the number of women in adult cardiology,” said Sandra Lewis, MD, FACC, a cardiologist at Northwest Cardiovascular Institute and the study’s lead author. “Twenty years ago, we acknowledged a need to increase the number of women in cardiology, and 10 years ago we saw an increase, but we’ve hit a wall.”

According to researchers, we need better workplace policies that make it easier for women to balance work and family time, especially during childbearing years. “We can do a better job of making cardiology a friendly place for young women,” Lewis said. “It’s definitely not that women don’t want to work hard or deal with the demanding schedule that’s required. We need to understand the barriers to women entering cardiology and work toward breaking down those barriers.” 

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