Quarter of female medical academics struggle to return to work after a career break
Authors: Helen Jaques
Publication date: 22 Feb 2013
A quarter of female medical academics have problems restarting work after a career break, analysis by the Medical Women’s Federation has found.
The federation found that such difficulties affect 23% of female medical academics and that 13% believe that having taken a break has harmed their career progression.
By comparison, only one in 10 (13%) male medical academics struggle to return to work, and just 1% consider a career break to have had a detrimental effect on their career progression.
The Medical Women’s Federation performed a new analysis of data from the 2006 Athena Survey of Science Engineering and Technology and the BMA’s 2008 report Women in Academic Medicine  to establish the effects of career breaks on female medical academics.
The analysis found that more than half (58%) of female doctors working in academic medicine had taken a career break compared with only 10% of male doctors. Women tended to have a higher number of career breaks than men, and their breaks were generally longer.
Female academics were more likely than male academics to return to the same job after a career break (65% v 47%). Men were more likely than women to go back to a different job at the same or higher level (47% v 22%).
Respondents identified availability of good child care, availability of flexible working, and keeping in touch with their department while on a career break as the most important factors in helping them back to work.
The Medical Women’s Federation recommends that female medical academics considering a career break should clearly identify all processes for returning to work before they take a break, and organise networking with colleagues and continuing professional development while absent.
- Medical Women’s Federation. Career breaks for NHS and university doctors: an analysis of the WAM database. January 2013. [Link] .
- British Medical Association. Women in academic medicine: developing equality in governance and management for career progression. April 2008.
Helen Jaques news reporter