The Picture's Bright for Women's Leadership in Medicine, Survey Finds

Gina Shaw, MA


September 17, 2015

In This Article


For female physicians, the view from the top is pretty good: Most in leadership positions say they are happy with both their careers and personal lives. In Medscape's first-ever report on women in medicine, 68% of female physicians report that they are either very or somewhat happy with their life at work, and 83% say they are either very or somewhat happy with their personal life.

The survey focused on leadership challenges and opportunities for women in medicine. A total of 3285 female physicians, representing all medical specialties but weighted to reflect the overall population of female physicians, completed the survey. Respondents were fairly evenly distributed by age, with 36% in their 50s, 33% in their 40s, 21% over 60, and 9% under 40. Women were classified as "leaders" if they reported holding a leadership position in their main practice setting, a professional organization/society, and/or an academic department; and were "non-leaders" if they reported not holding any of these positions.

More than 5 in 10 women surveyed (53%) hold at least one leadership position, and a comparable number (47%) of those not in leadership positions view attaining one in their main practice setting as important. Over 80% of women who identified as leaders say it is important for them to maintain their leadership positions. And 88% of women agree that leadership in the workplace is important for women in general, while 61% say it is important for them personally.

In fact, more women in leadership positions reported being happy in their careers (72%) compared with non-leaders (63%), while both groups were similarly happy with their lives outside of work.

It makes sense that women in leadership positions appear to be happier with the practice of medicine, says Susan R. Bailey, MD, speaker of the American Medical Association House of Delegates. The survey results, she says, suggest that anything that takes extra time or affects work-life balance seems to be offset by the positive changes that leaders feel they're making in their respective fields.

"If you have more emotional investment in your practice and feel more passionate about what you're doing, you're more likely to want to extend that passion beyond the examining room or operating room to be able to help medicine and your patients in other ways," says Dr Bailey, a Texas-based allergist. "That's why I got involved in medicine. I felt like there were so many factors influencing my ability to take care of my patients that went on in the state capitol; Washington, DC; and board rooms that it was important to influence that."


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.