Gender Equality in Academic Medicine Requires Changes for Both Men and Women

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We applaud the publication of the recent Commentary by Rochon and colleagues.1 The authors tackle an important, persistent, and pervasive problem—that of gender inequality. The authors make a number of excellent suggestions to deal with this problem, including specifically asking search committees to include women on their shortlists, using sponsorship to facilitate academic career advancement, and flexibly structuring women’s academic career pathways. However, we would like to encourage even more flexibility in the structure of academic career pathways. We suspect that the achievement of gender equality within the field of academic medicine requires flexibility in men’s, as well as women’s, career pathways.
We understand the reasons behind the suggestion to provide flexibility for women: Women in academic medicine are more likely than men to have partners who are employed full-time, women historically have carried the burden of domestic work, and women’s childbearing years coincide with their critically important early academic career years. Our concern is that instituting flexible structuring for only women’s academic career pathways perpetuates these disparities.
Currently women shoulder more domestic and child care responsibilities than men do, but this does not mean that they are better at these roles or enjoy them more than men. We posit that gender inequality in academic medicine would be better addressed by restructuring career advancement for both men and women. This would allow a more balanced and rewarding lifestyle for both men and women.
We do not wish our sons and daughters to grow up believing that women have to follow a different career path than men because they have greater responsibilities at home. We want them to grow up thinking that men and women equally share both domestic and work responsibilities. This requires a societal change. Academic medicine is the perfect venue for this societal change.
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