Gender Disparities

Gender and Generations: The Changing Face of Pediatricians in Practice

Chalanda Jones, MD

In 2012, there were approximately 67 million working women in the United States, making up 57% of the general workforce in professional occupations.1 Along with the increasing presence of women, four generations of Americans currently make up the nation’s workforce (compared with two or three generations during previous eras), bringing varying perspectives on such workplace aspects as work–life balance and experience with the use of technology.

A new study2 by Nancy D. Spector and colleagues highlights interesting statistics on gender and age as it relates to the specialty of pediatrics and discusses the perceived implications of these demographic trends. The article was prepared by the Gender and Generations Working Group of the Federation of Pediatric Organizations (FOPO), a group of 7 pediatric associations working together to promote high standards of health care for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.3

Men, Women, and Pediatrics

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a FOPO member organization, has reported that since the turn of the 21st century, the percentage of female pediatric residents at accredited U.S. programs (73% in 2012) has been substantially greater than the percentage of female residents across all medical specialties (approximately 50%).2 The authors note that this trend raises questions about whether fewer men are being attracted to pediatrics and, if so, whether this trend has a negative impact on the profession.

When another FOPO constituent, the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, surveyed its members about this gender trend, it found that while only 36% of department chairs who responded believed that female predominance among pediatricians was problematic, male department chairs were less concerned than were female department chairs.

With this increase in female pediatricians comes a difference in work–life balance priorities. Female residents are more likely to list structured work hours, part-time positions, and their spouse’s potential employment as important factors in their postresidency career choice, despite that female residents are more likely than male residents to be interested in general pediatrics rather than completing subspecialty training.

The increasing percentage of women pediatricians does not appear to pose a problem for patients. Surveys suggest that parents feel as if female physicians spend more time with their children, provide more of a social exchange, provide more encouragement and reassurance, and are more likely to directly gather information from the children.2 While nearly all girls (97%) in one survey preferred a female pediatrician, only 53% of boys preferred a male pediatrician, a demand that is accommodated by the current number of men in the profession.

Generational Shifts

Each of the four generations in the current workforce has differing values about workplace flexibility and part-time work. Nearly half of pediatricians younger than 50 already work part-time.2 This suggests that an important component of recruiting pediatricians must be adjusting to the modern perspective about part-time work and offering flexible work hours.

In their article, Spector and colleagues also comment on gender, age, and the use of social media and technology as they affect pediatric practice management, patient and family engagement, research, medical education, and the creation of the medical home.

This study highlights the gender and generational trends facing the field of pediatrics in the coming years. As the gender and age of America’s pediatricians change, the structuring of a supportive environment for the both the physicians and their patients will need to be considered. n

Chalanda Jones, MD, is a pediatrician at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.

Charles A. Pohl, MD—Series Editor, is professor of pediatrics and senior associate dean of student affairs and career counseling at Jefferson College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


1. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Current population survey, table 11: employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Updated February 26, 2014. Accessed June 10, 2014.

2. Spector ND, Cull W, Daniels SR, et al. Gender and generational influences on the pediatric workforce and practice [published online ahead of print May 12, 2014]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-3016.

3. Federation of Pediatric Organizations Web site. Accessed June 10, 2014.