Whose Job is it? Sharing of Household Responsibilities by Gender
LydiaFurman, MD, Associate Editor, Pediatrics
In a recently released article in Pediatrics(10.1542/peds.2018-2926), Dr. Amy Starmer and colleagues use 2015 data from the AAP Pediatrician Life and
Career Experience Study (PLACES) to examine the timely topic of work life balance
with respect to gender differences among early and mid-career pediatricians. PLACES
is a longitudinal study of early career pediatricians conducted by the American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP). Both AAP and non-AAP members are included, and of those originally
randomly selected for participation, 41% enrolled. The authors asked the following
questions: (1) to what extent female versus male pediatricians spend more time on
household responsibilities, (2) whether gender is associated with work-life balance
attainment and household responsibility sharing, and (3) what the barriers are to
work-life balance, and how these might be overcome. In this cross-sectional study,
1,293 pediatricians (72% of PLACES participants) provided data, of whom 64.3% were
female, 88.4% were married or partnered, and 79.2% were parents.
The study results are not entirely unexpected: female pediatricians were more likely
than male pediatricians to have responsibility both for 6 of 9 household responsibilities
(e.g. laundry, cooking, cleaning) and for all 7 responsibilities related to caring
for one’s own children (e.g. getting ready in the morning, going to bed at night,
school activities). Having children under age 18 years and being female were the two
factors significantly associated with all (except household budgeting) responsibilities.
I note that the household responsibility most frequently endorsed as, “Largely, I
do” by women (versus “shared” or “partner does”) was “coordinating schedules.” In
other words, “we [women] run this!” Both the upsides and the downsides of assuming
this role are the hard burden, potential joy and responsibility of making sure everything
happens and everything works. Once carried over to the workplace, this organizational
skill set is profoundly useful.
Other results are more nuanced, and Table 1, for example, walks us through “Factors
associated with rushed all the time, satisfied with share of responsibilities, and
success balancing job and other areas of life,” including not just gender, but subspecialty,
income and other descriptors. Table 2 includes themes identified in responses to the
query, “What has been your greatest challenge in trying to balance your work and personal
responsibilities?” with “tips” to overcome barriers: this is definitely a key study
table for readers.
Overall, the result that intrigued me the most was the potential for part-time work
to mitigate many of the challenges associated with work-life balance satisfaction.
Working part-time recurred as a theme, even though only 20% of participants (30% of
women and 2.4% of men) were doing so. Working part-time was significantly negatively
associated in adjusted analyses with feeling rushed all the time, and significantly
positively associated with both feeling satisfied with one’s share of responsibilities
and with success balancing job and other areas of life, each of which are main outcomes.
We can and should debate the challenges of working part-time outside the home with
respect to career trajectory, but this alternative should not be dismissed out of
hand either peremptorily or as a gender-biased solution. Given preliminary data on
the potential for increased career satisfaction and achievement with part-time work,
more research is clearly needed. 1 In the meantime, I think you will really enjoy this well-written article which challenges
us all to come to the table to tackle this important topic.
Menashe SJ, Parisi MT, Chapman T, Stanescu AL, Wright JN, Otto RK, Iyer RS. Part-Time
Pediatric Radiology: The Realities and Perceptions of Part-Time Employment in the
Academic Setting. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2018; 211:971-977. doi: 10.2214/AJR.18.19922.