, Volume 21, Issue 9, pp 920-925

Defining, navigating, and negotiating success

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Background: We studied female graduates of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program (CSP, Class of 1984 to 1989) to explore and describe the complexity of creating balance in the life of mid-career academic woman physicians.

Methods: We conducted and qualitatively analyzed (κ 0.35 to 1.0 for theme identification among rater pairs) data from a semi-structured survey of 21 women and obtained their curricula vitae to quantify publications and grant support, measures of academic productivity.

Results: Sixteen of 21 (76%) women completed the survey. Mean age was 48 (range: 45 to 56). Three were full professors, 10 were associate professors, and 3 had left academic medicine. Eleven women had had children (mean 2.4; range: 1 to 3) and 3 worked part-time. From these data, the conceptual model expands on 3 key themes: (1) defining, navigating, and negotiating success, (2) making life work, and (3) making work work. The women who described themselves as satisfied with their careers (10/16) had clarity of values and goals and a sense of control over their time. Those less satisfied with their careers (6/16) emphasized the personal and professional costs of the struggle to balance their lives and described explicit institutional barriers to fulfillment of their potential.

Conclusion: For this group of fellowship-prepared academic women physicians satisfactionis achieving professional and personal balance.