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Female Cardiologists Still Perceive Limitations in Career Advancement

January 23rd, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC -- Women continue to choose cardiology at a much lower rate than other specialties, and one reason why might be a sense that they are limited in advancing in the field, according to a new survey.

The third Professional Life Survey was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Cardiologists, overall, remain highly satisfied in their careers, but experiences appear to be different between men and women, according the survey, which has been conducted by the Washington, DC-based American College of Cardiology every 10 years since 1996.

For the latest survey, 2,313 cardiologists — including 964 women and 1,349 men — completed the survey, which was led by the ACC's Women in Cardiology Leadership Council. Results indicate that 88% of women and 90% of men are moderately to very satisfied, with more than 60% of both men and women satisfied with their financial compensation.

Yet, women were much less likely to report achieving a higher level of advancement compared with their male peers — 26% to 52%. In addition, while career satisfaction for women has risen from 80% in 1996, compared to no change for men over the past two decades, the levels of women reporting slower advancement has remained the same.

A possible effect is that women are still choosing cardiology at much lower rates than other specialties. In 2013, 13% of cardiologists were women, compared with more than 35% internists, more than 30% of hematologists/oncologists, 18% of general surgeons, and more than half of obstetricians/gynecologists, according to the report.

"We need to increase the diversity of our workforce, and find ways to recruit higher numbers of women and underrepresented minorities," explained senior author Claire Duvernoy, MD, FACC, chair of the ACC Women in Cardiology Council and an associate professor the University of Michigan medical school. "While we are heartened by the finding that the vast majority of cardiologists, both men and women, report high levels of career satisfaction, it is clear that much remains to be done to improve the field for everyone."

At the same time that the percentage of women reporting discrimination has declined in the past 20 years from 71% to 65%, the percentage of women reporting some form of discrimination in the workplace is still three times as high as men. Women were more likely to report discrimination based on sex and parenting, while men were more likely to report racial and religious discrimination, the survey noted.

"We must work to change the culture that allows this to occur in our field," Duvernoy said.

In addition to gender issues, the survey indicates that the cardiology workforce is aging, with a greater percentage of practicing physicians over the age of 60 compared with 10 and 20 years ago. At the same time, percentage of cardiologists working in a private practice setting has decreased from 73% in 1996 to only 23% now.

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