Culture Matters: The Pivotal Role of Culture for Women’s Careers in Academic Medicine

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PurposeWomen in academic medicine are not achieving the same career advancement as men, and face unique challenges in managing work and family alongside intense work demands. The purpose of this study was to investigate how a supportive department/division culture buffered women from the impact of work demands on work-to-family conflict.MethodAs part of a larger intervention trial, the authors collected baseline survey data from 133 women assistant professors at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2010. Validated measures of work demands, work-to-family conflict, and a department/division culture were employed. Pearson correlations and general linear mixed modeling were used to analyze the data. Authors investigated whether work culture moderated the association between work demands and work-to-family conflict.ResultsHeavy work demands were associated with increased levels of work-to-family conflict. There were significant interactions between work demands, work-to-family conflict, and department/division culture. A culture conducive to women’s academic success significantly moderated the effect of work hours on time-based work-to-family conflict and significantly moderated the effect of work overload on strain-based work-to-family conflict. At equivalent levels of work demands, women in more supportive cultures experienced lower levels of work-to-family conflict.ConclusionsThe culture of the department/division plays a crucial role in women’s work-to-family conflict and can exacerbate or alleviate the impact of extremely high work demands. This finding leads to important insights about strategies for more effectively supporting the careers of women assistant professors.

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