A Qualitative Analysis of Career Advice Given to Women Leaders in an Academic Medical Center

Gianrico Farrugia, Christina K. Zorn, Amy W. Williams, Kate K. Ledger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Importance: Women in academic medicine continue to face systemic obstacles on their paths to leadership. In addition to improving recruitment and advancement opportunities, academic medical centers must facilitate a cultural shift that ensures sustained leadership pathways for women. Objective: To better understand, from the perspective of women leaders, the workplace and cultural changes that need to take place in academic medicine to increase inclusivity and gender equity. Design, Setting, and Participants: This qualitative study of 40 women physicians and administrators with senior leadership roles at Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center and research institution with campuses in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota, examined participants' responses to a question regarding their paths to leadership. Replies were submitted between November and December 2018. Main Outcomes and Measures: Women were asked to describe career advice (positive or negative) they had received that was the hardest to accept but, in retrospect, turned out to be valuable. Results: Of 40 participants, 25 (63%) were physicians and 15 (37%) were administrators at Mayo Clinic; 27 (68%) had achieved the role of chair or the administrative equivalent. Career experience ranged from 6 to 40 years. Of the 40 women leaders queried, 38 (95%) provided written responses, which were separated into the 4 following categories: leadership styles are perceived as having gendered qualities, attaining leadership skills involves a strategic learning process, collisions between personal life and the workplace should not deter individuals from pursuing leadership roles, and leadership pathways for women involved hurdles. These categories represented a roadmap illuminating perceptions about the academic medical workplace. Conclusions and Relevance: These findings link generalizable principles to help to drive new strategies for gender parity. Shifting the culture of academic medicine begins with fully understanding impediments to women's advancement. The advice women leaders recounted offered a roadmap as well as a glimpse of the extra effort required for women to succeed amid some of the system's limitations and obstacles. A more complete understanding of gender biases may help to shape future programs to expand inclusivity and establish sustained leadership paths for women..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2011292
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 22 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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