There are many challenges to working in the medical field. However, women face added hurdles to creating long, lasting careers in medicine. Gender bias from both employers and patients often create unnecessary barriers in this field.
Most people go into the health care industry out of a deep desire to help people. Helping patients can be hard when you are constantly bumping up against unfair treatment. The law strictly prohibits employers from treating employees differently based on things like gender, but this does not prevent many from doing so anyway.
A noticeable wage gap
Originally published in the American Medical Association, an article points out that the average woman physician earns approximately 28% less than her male counterparts. The article points out that deep-rooted paternalistic views within the medical field paint women physicians as less willing than men to work hard. This lingering attitude is just one reason that women tend to earn less.
A different article originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the results of a national survey that looked at burnout as well as suicidal thoughts among general surgery residents. In that survey, only 10% of men reported experiencing gender discrimination compared with over 65% of women. The women victims cited the following sources of discrimination:
- Attending surgeons
- Patient families
Gender discrimination from patients can be a difficult issue to tackle. Employers may wrongly interpret patients’ dissatisfaction based on a female provider’s gender as a reflection of her ability and skills. Employers and health care facilities should take steps to address this type of casual gender bias by developing and implementing things like gender-specific reporting mechanisms, mindfulness training and gender-targeted interventions.
There is one area of medicine in which women traditionally experience less discrimination than men — obstetrics and gynecology. A survey found that 60% of male OB-GYNs reported that their gender affected their volume of patients, while no female OB-GYNs felt that this was an issue. However, nearly half of women OB-GYNs still reported discrimination in the form of earning less than their male peers.
Being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field is challenging. As a woman, you may feel the constant need to prove that you deserve to be where you are. To still face gender bias and discrimination, despite doing your best, can be truly disheartening, although you have options to pursue compensation while also simultaneously influencing change in your workplace.