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Young female doctors in the U.S. are more likely to put family demands ahead of career development, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open.

Upon completing online interviews with 344 doctors from a range of specialties, researchers found that 40 per cent of female doctors either stopped working or transitioned to part-time hours within a few years of completing their medical studies while 100 per cent of the male doctors surveyed maintained full-time hours.

“For men, the big words that jump out are financial – need money, loans. I don’t think you could even find the word child on the male one,” lead author Elena Frank, director of the Intern Health Study at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.

For women, “the major factor was child-care responsibilities, balancing work and family and children,” said senior author Constance Guille, a psychiatrist at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“When we lose women in medicine, we lose the potential for them as leaders in health care.”

While some of the female participants willingly reduced their hours, Guille and Frank say some may have been forced to work part-time due to a lack of childcare support.

The authors are calling on health care facilities to implement programs that support doctors who are also primary childcare providers.

Frank says work culture needs to change as well.

“Federal law guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but it doesn’t mean that people [can] take them,” she said.

“…It’s part of the leadership’s role to … set an example that makes it OK to use these policies once they’re actually in place.”

Read the full paper here.