Equality and Difference
The reasons women in academic medicine are not succeeding the
same pace as men involve a complex combination of isolation, cul-
tural stereotypes, and sexism, and difficulties of combining family re-
sponsibilities with professional demands.
AAMC Project Committee on Increasing Women’s
Leadership in Academic Medicine, 1996
I am relieved if radier than sex bias, the reason more women are not
breaking through the glass ceiling of academic medicine is because
their children are hanging on the tails of their white coats. Most of us
are happy to have them there, and academic medicine offers a level of
professional fulfillment, financial stability, and geographic flexibility
that is well worth the juggle.
Christine Laine, M.D., Ph.D., Annals of Internal Medicine, 1998
SEVERAL YEARS before passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, a colleague described to me a cartoon that had appeared in the Houston Post. It showed a barnyard filled with hens, chicks, and roosters. Amid all the bustle, encircled by admiring poultry, stood a hen skillfully juggling eggs. At the edge of the circle, one of the onlookers whispered, “I just love the way she juggles family and career.” Unquestionably, the greatest obstacle still facing women practitioners is the need to accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing. Women in medicine in America have accomplished a great deal in a relatively short time. Nevertheless, a century and a half has been barely enough time to overturn nearly a millennium of discouragement and negative expectations. Given women’s numerical standing in the profession until thirty years ago—given, in Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s terms, their skewed minority of less than 8 percent—women have been a