Despite the growing need for doctors all across the nation, there is still a gender bias and wage gap concerning women in the medical field.
February 3, 2017 marked National Women’s Physicians Day, celebrating the birthday of America’s first female doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Accepted into medical school as a practical joke back in the mid 1800s, Blackwell was a trailblazer for female doctors during a time when women were primarily nurses.
This day of remembrance is a poignant example that while more women are in the medical field more than ever before, there is still a disparity compared to their male coworkers.
Gender bias happens on a daily basis — a patient assuming a doctor is a nurse just because she is female, being interrupted by male coworkers, not being taken seriously at meetings, and sometimes even being overlooked for career advancement opportunities.
A study by Harvard Medical School also found that women doctors earn about 8% less than men, a disparity that equals about $20,000 a year. There is even a shortage of vacation days for women in the medical field, and considering that one out of three people go to work when they’re sick, female doctors are forced to compromise their own health just because they cannot afford to take paid time off.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December proved the medical community wrong for making these presumptions about women. The study found that women doctors were simply better at treating illnesses and injuries than their male counterparts, so much so that researchers found 32,000 deaths could be prevented among Medicaid recipients alone if they were solely treated by women.
To explain this enormous discrepancy, researchers pinpointed the fact that women have a greater tendency to be empathetic towards their patients, provide counseling, and “have a more patient-centered communication style, [be] more encouraging and reassuring, and have longer visits than male physicians,” Forbes reports.
However, despite these pitfalls, many female doctors believe it is time to show the world how far they have come. It is time to recognize that this couldn’t have been done if it wasn’t for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and her groundbreaking attitude.
“Especially with all the negativity in the air and in the media right now with regard to women and equality, it’s important to reflect and spread the word on what we’ve accomplished, and how far we’ve come,” Dr. Hala Sabry, an osteopathic emergency physician, explained to Forbes.
“Medicine is not immune from inequality,” she added. “But we’re ready to celebrate.”