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Womens Health Issues. 2014 Mar-Apr;24(2):e205-10. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.12.008. Epub 2014 Feb 16.

Knowledge and perceptions of family leave policies among female faculty in academic medicine.

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Department of Medicine, Women's Health Unit, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts. Electronic address:
Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.
Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine, University California San Diego, La Jolla, California.
Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.



The purpose of this research was to examine the knowledge and perceptions of family leave policies and practices among senior leaders including American Association of Medical College members of the Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) to identify perceived barriers to career success and satisfaction among female faculty.


In 2011 and 2012, GWIMS representatives and senior leaders at 24 medical schools were invited to participate in an interview about faculty perceptions of gender equity and overall institutional climate. An inductive, thematic analysis of the qualitative data was conducted to identify themes represented in participant responses. The research team read and reviewed institutional family leave policies for concordance with key informant descriptions.


There were 22 GWIMS representatives and senior leaders in the final sample. Participants were all female; 18 (82%) were full professors with the remainder being associate professors. Compared with publicly available policies at each institution, the knowledge of nine participants was consistent with policies, was discrepant for six, with the remaining seven acknowledging a lack of knowledge of policies. Four major themes were identified from the interview data: 1) Framing family leave as a personal issue undermines its effect on female faculty success; 2) poor communication of policies impairs access and affects organizational climate; 3) discrepancies in leave implementation disadvantage certain faculty in terms of time and pay; and 4) leave policies are valued and directly related to academic productivity.


Family leave policies are an important aspect of faculty satisfaction and academic success, yet policy awareness among senior leaders is lacking. Further organizational support is needed to promote equitable policy creation and implementation to support women in medical academia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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