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Female Residents and Physicians Face Discrimination and Burnout

January 10th, 2020

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article described how many female medical residents and surgeons face gender discrimination, which ultimately leads to burnout. The unfair treatment comes from colleagues, as well as patients, and can include less pay, discriminatory comments, and being passed over for jobs in favor of men. Experts say that any type of stereotyping can be damaging to female doctors and doctors-in-training.

Gender Bias is Nothing New

Several studies have shown that female medical students and doctors have less confidence and more anxiety than their male counterparts, even when they perform at the same and higher levels. During residency interviews, female applicants were asked if they had plans to start a family, and men were not. Female surgeons also averaged lower salaries; the reported figure was more than $80,000 less than the average male surgeon’s salary. An earlier Philadelphia Inquirer article also showed that approximately 30 percent of women in medical facilities reported sexual harassment.

Another survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges documented that males outnumbered females in every surgical specialty, aside from gynecology and obstetrics. The New England Journal of Medicine also published a story, claiming that verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment may be contributing to female surgical resident burnout and suicidal thoughts. Their survey of over 7,400 residents showed that one in five females experienced sexual harassment and 65 percent experienced gender discrimination.

Discrimination from Both Sides

The president of the American Board of Surgery characterized surgery as having a masculine feel, comparing it to team sports, like football. She stated that surgeons dictate how the surgeries are planned. The study also found that since discrimination is also from patients, it is a harder problem to solve. Patients often address the male in the room, even if a female there has a more senior position. Many patients also request male doctors and even if the patient does not do this with bad intentions, it can damage physicians’ confidence levels.

Suggestions for Improvement

The associate program director of Temple University’s general surgery residency program emphasized that change needs to come from the top, and it starts with understanding the problems that exist. Once recognized, people can start working on how to change the culture. Department leaders and faculty must lead by example, creating inclusive environments that treat everyone equally.

The New England Journal of Medicine’s study indicated that discrimination levels varied depending on the hospital, so some may be treating their employees better than others. The study’s lead author will be sending survey results to all the residency programs that participated. He hopes that the high-performing programs will share this information with others and work to address the discrimination and harassment.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight for Victims of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Gender discrimination should not affect your career, and the Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. are ready to protect your rights. For a free case evaluation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and South Jersey.

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