Current Initiatives

The United State  of Women Summit

Susan Girdler, Ph.D., was nominated and invited to attend The United State of Women’s Summit at The White House in June 2016. The Summit rallied women from across the country to celebrate female achievements , and discussed how action will be taken moving forward for gender equality issues. Additional topics included economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement.

Susan Girdler, Ph.D., at the USOW Summit
White House Summit panel discussion on the cost of caregiving. Panelists included Anne Marie Slaughter (far right), author or Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family

To learn more about The United State of Women and the Summit, visit these links. For USOW resources, visit our Resources page.

United State of Women

Watch the Summit

United State of Women Film

United State of Women Blog

Take the Pledge

Events throughout the US

Join the United State of Women Movement

Caregivers at Carolina Program

UNC receives grant to support young physician scientists

Co-Directors and Year 1 Scholars: Susan Girdler, Ph.D., Leeza Park, MD, Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, and Amelia Drake, MD

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists aims to address potential burnout of young doctors who have substantial research and extra-professional responsibilities.

The University of North Carolina School of Medicine received a grant for $540,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) to help early-career physician-scientists continue their patient-centered research amid extraprofessional caregiving demands.

DDCF created the Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists as part of its mission to improve the quality of people’s lives through medical research. It awarded a total of $5.4 million to 10 schools to be paid over five years to provide stronger institutional support and supplemental funds to early career physician-scientists to maintain productivity during periods of excessive demands on the job and at home.

“We are grateful to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for this important grant,” said Amelia Drake, MD, a co-principal investigator of the grant. “We will use it to find more and better ways to support our younger colleagues.”

Early in their careers, physicians and scientists are vulnerable to an increased risk for burnout, caused by prolonged periods of high work demands, low resources, and work-home interference, leading to exhaustion, diminished professional efficacy, and increased job turnover.

Studies have revealed that up to 44 percent of young physicians with full-time faculty appointments at academic medical schools leave their posts within 10 years. Furthermore, while women enter academic medical centers at about the same rate as men, they make up only 19 percent of faculty at the full professor level. The causes of this disparity are varied and complex, but one contributing factor is the load of transitory but significant outside responsibilities, such as childcare, elder care, or family illness that may arise and preclude the career growth of many young faculty members, particularly women.

The UNC School of Medicine will use the funds to create a new program, Caregivers at Carolina: Support for Physician-Scientists. It will help UNC’s early-career physician-scientists as they balance research and caregiving responsibilities by improving mentoring and addressing time demands and psychosocial needs.

Participants in Caregivers at Carolina will work with “Taking Care of Our Own,” another UNC program that addresses burnout stress by providing education, confidential support, advice, and professional referral. Caregivers at Carolina will also create a new postpartum/adoption peer-support initiative.

In addition, the DDCF funds will go toward building a website that consolidates information about existing resources at UNC for childcare and elder care. The website will be one point of entry to both “Caregivers at Carolina” and “Taking Care of Our Own.”

In addition, a few participants in “Caregivers at Carolina” will be selected as scholars to receive funding to hire a research assistant, to buy out of clinical time, to conduct data analysis, or to produce grant writing or editing.

“This grant means we can support the research activities of physician-scientists who are facing extraprofessional caregiving responsibilities,” said Susan Girdler, PhD, co-principal investigator of the DDCF grant. “This is a gender-neutral program that provides monetary support to help reduce the physician’s workload and facilitate research progress during a transitory period (1 – 2 years) when caregiving demands are highest.”

Examining work-life issues among physician-scientists makes the UNC School of Medicine among the first academic medical schools in the country to be able to acknowledge, in a meaningful way, the lived experiences of medical professionals.

“Our faculty members are not just workers, but also mothers, fathers, spouses, and children who have the right to be able to care for their loved ones without jeopardizing their research careers,” Girdler said. “Although the program can only provide the monetary support for 1 – 2 physicians per year, its other elements will be available to all qualifying applicants.”

Amelia Drake, MD, is the Newton D. Fischer Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the UNC School of Medicine. Susan Girdler, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry and psychology, and the director of the Stress & Health Research Program at the UNC School of Medicine.

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research, and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s Medical Research Program supports clinical research that advances the translation of biomedical discoveries into new preventions, diagnoses and treatments for human diseases. To learn more about the program, visit


Carolina Seminar Series 2016-2018

The Attrition of Women Faculty from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Disciplines: Identifying Targets for Intervention and Effecting Change

Conveners: Susan Girdler, Ph.D., Patricia Parker, Ph.D., Jaye Cable, P.h.D., and Donna Surge, Ph.D.

Current seminars include: Attrition of Women from STEM.

The underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines remains an important issue for the future of the U.S. scientific workforce. Systemic, historical, and widespread inequities persist at every stage of the academic pipeline for women in STEM, from hiring to tenure, promotion and leadership. Like other U.S. institutions, at the University of North Carolina (UNC) women comprise about 40% of the assistant professors but only about 25% of the associate or full professors in STEM. Attrition risk is particularly high at two academic transition points for women – from Postdoctoral Fellow to Assistant Professor and from Assistant to Associate Professor. These transition points typically correspond to the time of family formation.The stress associated with balancing academic demands with family responsibilities is likely one key reason for women’s departure from the STEM workforce prior to achieving tenure.

In addition to the stress associated with family responsibilities for women faculty, climate survey results from 19 institutions funded by the NSF ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation (IT) programs indicate that women in STEM, relative to men in STEM, enjoy fewer resources1, including : 1) role models; 2) mentoring; 3) institutional research support; and 4) social support/networking opportunities. Results from the nationwide Association for Women in Science (AWIS) found that 40% of women in STEM disciplines reported that among the top issues they face are managing multiple roles and managing stress.

The proposed seminar series will employ a model of ‘Burnout Stress’ as the theoretical construct guiding discussion and research on the identification of stressors in the academic workplace at UNC that differentiate women in STEM from women in non-STEM disciplines. Burnout is a psychological phenomenon, caused by excessive and prolonged stress, typically in the work context.2 The key components of burnout are emotional exhaustion, cynicism/disinterest, and diminished professional efficacy. The strongest predictors of burnout are high demands, diminished resources/structural obstacles, and work-home interference. The correlates (outcomes) of burnout in the work place setting include: 1) decreased job satisfaction; 2) increased turnover intention; and 3) depression and anxiety symptomatology.

Underrepresented minority (URM) women in STEM are exposed to additional race/ethnic related chronic stressors in the workplace at both the institutional level, where social and workplace isolation is common because there typically lacks a ‘critical mass’ of URM women and few opportunities for culturally grounded interactions; as well as at the individual level in the form of ‘microaggression’ stress. Recently, the concept of racial microaggressions has received national attention. In 2014, Students of Color at universities across the US engaged in social media campaigns to bring attention to these often subtle, everyday forms of racism they encounter on their campuses. Microagressions can include microassaults (explicit racism), but more commonly in the academic setting they involve microinsults (rude, insensitive characterizations), and microinvalidations (failure to see or value racial heritage, leading to further marginalization of the experiences of URM women)3. Critical Race Theory4 (the major premise of which is that society is fundamentally racially stratified and unequal, where power processes systematically disenfranchise racially oppressed people) provides a theoretical framework in which to understand how everyday forms of racism (microaggressions) emerge in the everyday experiences of people of color.

  1. Bilimoria, D., Joy, S., & Liang, X. Breaking barriers and creating inclusiveness: Lessons of organizational transformation to advance women faculty in academic science and engineerting. Human resource management, Human resource Management, 2008, 47(3), 423-441.
  2. Bria, M., Spanu, F., Baban, A. & Dumitrascu, D.L. Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey: Factorial validity and invariance among Romanian healthcare professionals. Burnout Research, 2014, 1, 103-111.
  3. Pittman CT, Racial Microagressions: The narratives of African American faculty at a predominately white university. The Journal of Negro Education, 2012, 81(1), 82 – 92.
  4. Hylton, K. Talk the talk, walk the walk: defining Critical Race Theory in research.Race, Ethnicity and Education, 2012, 15(1), 23-41.

We are proud to announce that the Carolina Seminar Series has sponsored our seminar series to conduct focus group research designed to understand differences in stressors experienced by women Assistant Professors and postdoctoral fellows in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) versus non STEM disciplines and the intersection of race/ethnicity with academic discipline. To learn more about the Carolina Seminar Series, click here.

For more information on ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation (IT), click here.