Study Finds That Women in Academic Medicine Have to “Manage Their Femininity”

university-of-kansas-logoA new study by Emily Jones, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of Kansas, has found that women tend to mask their gender in order to succeed in academic medicine. Jones interviewed a group of women who had achieved tenure in academic medicine. She found two main themes from the women she interviewed. First, women noted that they had to be academically superior to demonstrate that they deserved to be in their position.

Second, the women said that they had to manage their femininity. Jones said that many of the women in her study stated that “they couldn’t be too feminine, or they were weak or two girly. They couldn’t be too masculine, or they would be perceived as too butch.” One woman reported that at office parties or other functions, she tried not talk to women secretaries or colleagues’ wives in order that she maintain the perception as a professional.

Jones concludes that there is major need for mentors for young women in academic medicine. “In academics you need a senior scholar to show you the ropes. If there’s nobody who gets you and can really understand what you’re doing and where you’re coming from, there’s just a mismatch there,” Jones said. “Among the women I talked to, a lot of them did have very awesome male mentors, and that was probably one of the reasons they succeeded.”

Jones’ paper, “Managing Femininity to Manage Success: How Women Thrive in Academic Medicine and Basic Science,” was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago. Jones is a graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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