Since 1996, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have been conducting the Professional Life Survey once every decade.
The first survey identified key areas in the professional lives of cardiologists that needed improvement, such as job negotiation and leadership training, for which the ACC provided educational programs.
The survey also identified gender-specific differences and concerns, including childcare needs, disparity in remuneration, and lack of career advancement.
Furthermore, the second survey uncovered persisting gender differences. Men and women differed in how they were treated and how satisfied they were with advancement and compensation. Disparities included academic equality and the likelihood of starting a family.
Since then, the ACC and the Leadership Council of the Women in Cardiology (WIC) have implemented outreach and mentoring programs, as well as a visiting professor program designed to help women in cardiology advance their academic portfolios.
The aim of the third and latest Professional Life Survey - conducted in 2015 - has been to determine the current demographics, career choices, and levels of career satisfaction in the field of cardiology. It also aimed to identify personal and professional barriers to success. Finally, the survey aimed to point out areas of concern and offer the ACC guidelines for future improvement.
Evaluating the cardiology workforce
The Professional Life Survey was sent out to a total of 10,798 individuals, including 8,821 cardiologist members and 1,977 Fellows-in-Training.
In total, 2,313 physicians completed the survey, including 964 women (42 percent) and 1,349 men (58 percent).
The response rate was 30 percent for women and 18 percent for men, which is a decrease from previous surveys and indicates a possible limitation of the study.
The age distribution was similar between men and women.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by senior author Dr. Claire Duvernoy, and the results have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Career satisfaction among men and women
By and large, cardiologists reported feeling satisfied with their professional lives, with 88 percent of women and 90 percent of men saying that they were moderately to very satisfied. Only 1 percent of women and 2 percent of men reported feeling very dissatisfied.
In terms of financial compensation, cardiologists also reported feeling satisfied; over 60 percent of men and women were satisfied with their salary.
For women, career satisfaction has improved by 8 percentage points since 1996. However, the proportion of women likely to report slow advancement has remained largely the same as 20 years ago.
Women were also unlikely to report achieving a higher level of career advancement than their contemporaries.
Men's career satisfaction has remained largely unchanged over the past 2 decades.
Demographic differences in the field of cardiology
Regarding demographics, women are still choosing cardiology at a much lower rate than other specialties, despite the ACC and WIC's efforts to diversify the field. In 2013, only 13 percent of cardiologists were women, compared with 35 percent of internists, over 30 percent of oncologists, and over 50 percent of obstetricians/gynecologists.
Cardiologists are still predominantly white, with 61 percent being male, 58 percent being older, and with more than 30 percent being over the age of 40.
Dr. Duvernoy and team emphasize the persistence of several issues identified 20 years ago:
"The initial 1996 ACC Professional Life Survey identified a lack of ethnic and sex diversity, an aging workforce, and discrimination as critical issues for cardiology, all of which remain relevant in 2016. "
The survey reports that over the past 2 decades, the percentage of cardiologists over the age of 60 has increased significantly.
In 1996, 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women were over 60 years of age, while in 2015, 17 percent and 18 percent of male and female cardiologists, respectively, were over the age of 60.
"We need to increase the diversity of our workforce, and find ways to recruit higher numbers of women and underrepresented minorities. While we are heartened by the finding that the vast majority of cardiologists, both men and women, report high levels of career satisfaction, it is clear that much remains to be done to improve the field for everyone."
Dr. Claire Duvernoy
Family life and discrimination
As for family barriers to professional success, women were more likely (38 percent) than men (29 percent) to report that family duties stopped them from doing professional work or from traveling for professional development.
Although men were also more likely to report family barriers in the way of their professional development than they were 2 decades ago, they remained much more likely to be married and have children than women.
In fact, women were more likely to report discrimination based on gender and parenting, while men tended to report religious and racial discrimination.
In terms of overall discrimination, the percentage of women having reported feeling discriminated against has declined in the past 2 decades, from 71 percent to 65 percent. However, the percentage of women reporting some form of discrimination in the workplace is still almost three times higher than that of men.
"We must work to change the culture that allows this to occur in our field," says Dr. Duvernoy, who is also chair of the ACC Women in Cardiology Council.
Changes in the professional lives of cardiologists over 2 decades, Sandra J. Lewis et al., Journal of the American College of Cardiology, doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2016.11.027, published online 21 December 2016.
ACC news release, accessed 22 December 2016 via EurekAlert.
Additional source: Center for Workforce Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2014 Physician specialty data book, accessed 22 December 2016.