BOX 6-3

Improving the Retention of Junior Faculty Case Study: Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine Task Force

The Task Force on Women’s Academic Careers in Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine is a model for academic departments to reduce gender bias and foster career development for women faculty.a

This case study begins in 1989 with a report from the Provost’s Committee on the Status of Women that showed lower salaries for women faculty compared with men and substantially slower rates of promotion. In 1990, the chair of the Department of Medicine appointed a Task Force on Women’s Academic Careers in Medicine to evaluate and characterize career pathways for men and women medical faculty. They found women faculty were less likely than men to be nominated for promotion, to have mentors who actively fostered their careers, to have comparable salaries, and to participate in decision making. Women faculty were more likely than male faculty to have mentors who used the women faculty’s work for the mentor’s own benefit, to feel isolated, and to experience conflict between work and personal responsibilities.

The Task Force set out to evaluate the basis of the obstacles to career advancement, hypothesizing that they were due to a combination of institutional policy, structure, and culture. The Task Force collected baseline data using individual interviews and a survey administered to all full-time faculty. Based on these data, they implemented interventions and evaluated the impact of these interventions by tracking such factors as faculty turnover, tenure rate, and proportion of men and women faculty at various ranks along the tenure-track, and by re-administering the same survey 3 and 5 years later. They found a substantial improvement in the proportion of junior women retained and promoted—without any change in evaluation criteria—as well as improvement for both men and women in timeliness of promotions, manifestations of gender bias, access to information needed for faculty development, isolation, and salary equity.

What did they do? The Task Force outlined six intervention areas and associated tasks to eliminate the gender-based obstacles to women’s careers.

  1. Leadership

    • The department chair and task-force members committed to a long-term 15-year intervention.

    • The Task Force on Women’s Academic Careers in Medicine was formalized and provided an operating budget that included funds for members to attend faculty development conferences.

    • A faculty/organization development specialist was hired to evaluate department structure and decision-making processes, and to assist individual faculty members.

  1. Education

    • Lectures, workshops and focus groups educated all members of the faculty on gender discrimination and bias.

    • Female faculty members participated in a monthly department-level professional development colloquium.

  1. Decrease Isolation

    • Weekend and after-hours meetings were rescheduled to weekday working hours.

    • Two or more women were included in every departmental search committee.

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