Habilitations as a bottleneck? A retrospective analysis of gender differences at the Medical University of Vienna
Background: The share of female physicians who drop out of a university career increases disproportionately with every career step. In this project, we analysed careers at the Medical University of Vienna (formerly the Medical Faculty at the University of Vienna) in the time span from 1992 to 2012 to explore the particular role of habilitations as a potential obstacle for women striving to pursue a career in science.
Methods: To gain both a macro- and micro-view of the phenomenon of habilitations, a descriptive analysis of the data found in the archive of the Medical University of Vienna was carried out as a first step. Building on these results, structured interviews with the female physicians who were involved in the habilitation procedures at that time were conducted.
Results: While hardly any gender-based differences or discrimination can be reported for the habilitation procedures themselves, the research clearly reveals that the disparity in habilitations by men and women is a manifestation of unequal access to informal networks, differences regarding integration in the scientific community and available time resources. It is unlikely that the rising number of women completing doctoral studies in the field of medicine will automatically lead to a harmonisation of habilitation numbers.
Conclusion: The analysis of existing gender-based differences with regard to habilitations in the field of medicine shows that they result from multiple processes that are subtle and relatively resistant to change.