How do women in academic otolaryngology achieve work-life balance while negotiating family and childrearing commitments, clinical workload, and scholarly activity, and what coping strategies and behaviors do they use?
Bottom Line: Conflicting demands between home and professional life are one of the barriers to recruiting, promoting, and retaining women in academic otolaryngology. When participants felt pulled in opposing directions, they reflected on their own goals and values to help guide decisions.
Explore This IssueApril 2020
Background: Although the total percentage of women in otolaryngology residency has increased from 19% to 34% over the past decade, they still lack proportionate representation in specialty societies and academic leadership positions. Conflicting demands between home and professional life may be a barrier to recruiting, promoting, and retaining women in academic otolaryngology.
Study design: Qualitative research conducted with 13 successful women in academic otolaryngology who have children, followed by a focus group of seven additional participants to validate critical topics/themes.
Setting: Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
Synopsis: All participants expressed a passion for and commitment to their career and academic otolaryngology. Many disliked the word “balance,” as it seemed to reference a static state, whereas they experienced a dynamic and shifting urgency in the tension between their work and family obligations over time. In general, participants felt there was no one right way to approach family planning; most participants had full-time nannies at some point, especially with young children. Participants described outsourcing unenjoyable tasks and simplifying their lifestyles. Participants were selective but actively seeking opportunities that fostered promotion in academia. Many women admitted feeling guilty about imperfect performance caused by competing demands but noted that shedding guilt was important. Limitations included risk of overweighting certain themes due to the small sample size and a lack of representation of ethnic and cultural groups and family structures.
Citation: Meyer TK, Bergmark R, Zatz M, et al. Barriers pushed aside: insights on career and family success from women leaders in academic otolaryngology. Laryngoscope. 2019;161:257-264.