We propose a cluster-randomized intervention trial at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine in which eligible departments and divisions (hereafter referred to as divisions) will be randomly assigned to intervention vs. control status. We hypothesize that this multi-level, coordinated intervention will improve academic productivity, job satisfaction, and the overall quality of life for junior women faculty in intervention divisions compared with their counterparts in control divisions. We will test a theoretical model that explores whether the intervention initiative results in the enhancement of women's career supportive (WCS) work environments. Facets of a WCS work environment include interpersonal inclusiveness, equal access to resources, support for work-family needs, and freedom from sexual harassment and unconscious bias. Greater supportiveness is expected to translate into improved personal and professional outcomes for women faculty. Increased productivity and a positive impact are expected at the division level. The intervention will include three components: 1) junior women faculty participation in the nationally-recognized Total Leadership Program;2)specific sessions for the leaders of intervention divisions;3) a structured, facilitated task force to conduct an analysis of work practices, recruitment, mentorship, and cultural attitudes and practices in each division. We plan to enroll 202 women in 20 departments/divisions. Based on pilot data from Penn, we estimate that we will have greater than 80 percent power to detect an increase of 1.5 newly accepted publications per year. The study will have greater power to detect improvements in perceptions of the work environment, job satisfaction and quality of life. General linear regression models will be used for testing associations between within-woman change in study outcomes. The model will incorporate the clustering by division, and adjust statistical tests for any correlation induced by the clustered design. Based on organizational change theory and the extraordinary commitment of resources from the School of Medicine, this intervention has enormous potential to demonstrate institutional change and rigorously evaluate promising approaches to improve the status of faculty in academic medicine.
While it is critical to support further research on the individual and institutional factors that both impede and support the careers of women in science, we have learned a great deal about many of the key barriers to academic success. It is time for us to apply our best scientific rigor to interventions that will deepen our understanding of the factors that influence women's careers in science while making a difference through action-based research.
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