Organizational Climate and Family Life: How These Factors Affect the Status of Women Faculty at One Medical School

Shollen, S Lynn MS; Bland, Carole J. PhD; Finstad, Deborah A.; Taylor, Anne L. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181900edf
Institutional Climate for Faculty

Purpose: To compare men and women faculty’s family situations and perceptions of organizational climate.

Method: In 2005, the authors sent an electronic survey to full-time faculty at the University of Minnesota Medical School to assess their perceptions of professional relationships, mentoring, obstacles to satisfaction, policies, circumstances that contribute to departure, gender equality, family situations, and work life.

Results: Of 615 faculty, 354 (57%) responded. Women and men were equally productive and worked similar total hours. Women were less likely to have partners/spouses, were more likely to have partners/spouses who were employed, and devoted more time to household tasks. Compared with men, women reported more experience with obstacles to career success and satisfaction and with circumstances that contribute to departure. More women than men perceived that they were expected to represent the perspective of their gender, that they were constantly under scrutiny by colleagues, that they worked harder than colleagues worked in order to be perceived as legitimate, and that there were “unwritten rules” and bias against women. Few faculty reported overt discrimination; however, more women than men perceived gender discrimination in promotion, salary, space/resources, access to administrative staff, and graduate student/fellow assignment.

Conclusions: Work–life and family–life factors served as obstacles to satisfaction and retention of the women faculty studied. Many of these factors reflect challenges attributable to subtle gender bias and the intersection of work and family life. The authors provide examples showing that medical schools can implement policy changes that support faculty who must balance work and family responsibilities. Identification and elimination of gender bias in areas such as promotion, salary, and resource allocation is essential.

Ms. Shollen is a graduate research assistant, Office of Faculty Affairs, University of Minnesota Medical School, and Postsecondary Education Research Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Bland was assistant dean for faculty development, professor of family medicine and community health, and director of the Family Medicine Clinical Research Fellowship, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her coauthors regret to report that Dr. Bland passed away while this article was being prepared for publication.

Ms. Finstad is information technology supervisor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Taylor is vice dean for academic affairs and professor of medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York.

Correspondence should be addressed to Ms. Shollen, Department of Educational Policy and Administration, 330 Wulling Hall, University of Minnesota, 86 Pleasant Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455; e-mail: (

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges