The Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow

Episode #3: What to Do When Life Is Not Fair

Show Notes:

Hello my beautiful WIMBAs! How are you holding up? I am doing really well. Just been super busy working on putting together a webinar that I cannot wait to share with you all. You never know. By the time you listen to this, it might be up and running, so go over to and check it out. If it’s not there yet, I’ve got something else for you which is brand new and exciting that I just put together. It’s the Burnout Meter. So if you’re wondering whether you’re in the process of burning out, take the quiz, jump on a call with me to get your score and I’ll share with you what your next best steps are. Can’t wait.

OK. So today we are going to talk about what to do when life is not fair. Woman to woman, I know I am preaching to the choir when I say that life is not fair. But for you WIMBAs, it is even more evident.

According to some digging I did online, 76% of women physicians reported gender-based discrimination in their early careers. The numbers decreased further along in their careers so that in mid-career it was 56.7% and by late career it was 35.8%. So the trend is good, but here’s what we’re really saying here. That 3 out of every 4 female docs are being discriminated against just as they are starting their careers. Not exactly a red carpet reception. And when you get to the late stage in your career, it’s still happening to 1 in 3 women. And that’s just discrimination based on your gender.

Here’s how this manifests. Women who are assertive are sometimes perceived to be aggressive while men who assert themselves are considered to be confident. When a woman shares her idea at a meeting, sometimes her ideas are overlooked, but if later a man brings up the same idea, it is well received. This can discourage women from taking leadership positions or from speaking up because they aren’t being taken seriously.

Then on top of that we see age-based discrimination across the board. Nearly 12% of senior women physicians reported this happened frequently, sometimes in the form of bullying or verbal abuse under the assumption that they can’t keep up due to their age. And the younger docs were finding that they were being discriminated against because people thought they were too young to know what they were doing.

And while I can’t find any statistics on this for women in medicine in particular, there is also discrimination based on religion.

I heard a story about a Jewish woman who felt antagonized because her male coworkers would make sly remarks about Jews. She wanted to handle this in a nonconfrontational way that gets the message across without embarrassing the other person. So she would keep a stack of greeting cards and whenever someone would say something derogatory about Jews, she would slip them a card. And it said, “Roses are reddish, violets are bluish, if it weren’t for Christmas we’d all be Jewish.” And she said that after that, the remarks stopped.

Part of the problem here is that when you experience discrimination in the workplace, it can lead you to become disengaged and that can lead to burnout.

So what can you do to manage the sometimes unfair treatment you receive as a woman in medicine? Here are 3 tips:

#1: Despite what anyone else may say or how others may perceive you, it’s important to assert yourself. You have a voice and it’s your responsibility to use it. Others may not pay attention always, but it’s up to you to point out discrepancies. People have blind spots. They don’t know what they don’t know. Biases are things we often don’t recognize in ourselves, so someone has to point them out to us. Hopefully you work with people who are reasonable enough.

#2: Take care of yourself. If you are stressed out or feel triggered when you experience disrimination at work, take some deep breaths. Make good use of exercise and journaling as outlets for any frustration. Don’t keep this bottled up inside.

#3: Focus on your goal. It is, no doubt, harder for women than it is for men in this profession for all the reasons mentioned above. But you can’t let that stop you.

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in America to receive an M.D. in 1849. Imagine what it was like before she broke the mold? Imagine how much harder it was for her. Being the first is always hardest. So yes, there is a lot of room for improvement in how we treat women – whether it is their gender, age, or religion. But thank goodness you don’t have it as hard as Dr. Blackwell who paved the way for you to be where you are.

Remember than no matter what happens out there, you have earned your place. You are worthy of equal treatment, and you don’t have to let anyone influence how you feel. Stand up for yourself because you are worth it!

And with that, I wish you smooth sailing in the week ahead. Ciao!

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