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Experiencing the Culture of Academic Medicine: Gender Matters, A National Study

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Energized and productive faculty are critical to academic medicine, yet studies indicate a lack of advancement and senior roles for women.


Using measures of key aspects of the culture of academic medicine, this study sought to identify similarity and dissimilarity between perceptions of the culture by male and female faculty.


The C - Change Faculty Survey was used to collect data on perceptions of organizational culture.


A stratified random sample of 4,578 full-time faculty at 26 nationally representative US medical colleges (response rate 52 %). 1,271 (53 %) of respondents were female.


Factor analysis assisted in the creation of scales assessing dimensions of the culture, which served as the key outcomes. Regression analysis identified gender differences while controlling for other demographic characteristics.


Compared with men, female faculty reported a lower sense of belonging and relationships within the workplace (T = −3.30, p < 0.01). Self-efficacy for career advancement was lower in women (T = −4.73, p < 0.001). Women perceived lower gender equity (T = −19.82, p < 0.001), and were less likely to believe their institutions were making changes to address diversity goals (T = −9.70, p < 0.001). Women were less likely than men to perceive their institution as family-friendly (T = −4.06, p < 0.001), and women reported less congruence between their own values and those of their institutions (T = −2.06, p < 0.05). Women and men did not differ significantly on levels of engagement, leadership aspirations, feelings of ethical/moral distress, perception of institutional commitment to faculty advancement, or perception of institutional change efforts to improve support for faculty.


Faculty men and women are equally engaged in their work and share similar leadership aspirations. However, medical schools have failed to create and sustain an environment where women feel fully accepted and supported to succeed; how can we ensure that medical schools are fully using the talent pool of a third of its faculty?

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The authors wish to thank all the members of the C - Change research team who participated in developing items for the survey, data collection and supporting the process of C - Change work. The authors thank the AAMC for assisting in the initial phase of the project. The authors are indebted to the medical faculty who generously shared their perspectives in the survey.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the critical funding support of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation and Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center. Funding supported the design and conduct of the study; and collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data. Supplemental funds to support data analysis were provided by the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Public Health and Science, Office on Women’s Health, and Office of Minority Health; National Institutes of Health, Office of Research on Women’s Health; the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

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The C - Change Faculty Survey and its items, described in this report, are copyrighted by C - Change, Brandeis University. Please contact to use this survey.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Linda H. Pololi MD.

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Pololi, L.H., Civian, J.T., Brennan, R.T. et al. Experiencing the Culture of Academic Medicine: Gender Matters, A National Study. J GEN INTERN MED 28, 201–207 (2013).

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