The proportion of women medical school graduates in the United States has grown substantially; however, representation of women in anesthesiology lags behind. We sought to investigate factors associated with women recommending against a career in anesthesiology due to obstacles related to motherhood.
We surveyed 9525 women anesthesiologist members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) with a web-based survey distributed via e-mail. Associations between whether women would counsel against anesthesiology due to obstacles related to motherhood and 34 related categorical variables were estimated. Fisher exact test was used for categorical binary variables, and Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test was used for ranked variables.
The response rate for the primary question was 19.2%. Among the 1827 respondents to the primary question, 11.6% would counsel a female medical student against a career in anesthesiology due to obstacles pertaining to motherhood. Counseling against an anesthesiology career was not associated with ever being pregnant (P = .16), or whether a woman was pregnant during residency or fellowship training (P = .41) or during practice (P = .16). No association was found between counseling against anesthesiology and training factors: total number of weeks of maternity leave (P = .18), the percentage of women faculty (P = .96) or residents (P = .34), or the number of pregnant coresidents (P = .66). Counseling against a career in anesthesiology was significantly associated with whether respondents’ desired age of childbearing/motherhood and desired number of children were adversely affected by work demands (with Bonferroni adjustment for the 34 comparisons, both P < .0001). The risk ratio of respondents whose desired childbearing age and desired number of children were affected by work demands counseling against a career in anesthesiology was 5.1 compared to women whose desired childbearing age and desired number of children were not affected (99% confidence interval [CI], 3.3–7.9; P < .0001; odds ratio, 6.2).
In this study of 1827 women anesthesiologists, approximately 1 in 10 would counsel a student against a career in anesthesiology due to obstacles pertaining to motherhood, and this was associated with altering one’s timing and number of children due to job demands. Further research is needed to understand how women’s perception of a career in anesthesiology is related to factors influencing personal choices. Understanding women’s perceptions of motherhood in anesthesiology may help leaders support career longevity and personal satisfaction in this growing cohort of anesthesiologists.