This Friday, a group of 50 women leaders in all sectors of healthcare is launching a new movement to advocate for safe, dignified work for all workers across healthcare. Why did I join? Simply, I have come to realize that if nothing is done, nothing will happen. In fact, the World Economic Forum has stated in December that at current pace, it would take 200 years to ensure equity in pay for women. In a recent survey of women in healthcare, 16% of women thought it would NEVER happen. There are reasons to believe this, given that healthcare often fosters a hierarchical structure and a preference for the status quo.
Over 20 years ago, when I started medical school, we had gender equity in representation at the medical school level, but yet today, roughly 1 in 5 female faculty in our medical schools are professors. This is even more jarring, given the most recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges; 57% of Instructors, the entry level status of medical school faculty, are women. Only 11% of healthcare CEOs are women. Between 2001-2013, the rate of Full Professors in our nation’s medical schools moved less than 1% per year. Moreover, even with equal representation at the medical student level, nearly half of female medical students report sexual harassment. You would think newer fields would have a chance to get this right, but in hospital medicine, we clearly still see inequities. Clearly something is wrong.
#NEJM: Up to 50% of female medical students report experiencing sexual harassment. That’s before they even begin their careers! Time’s Up for Medicine? Only Time Will Tell #MeToo #TimesUp https://t.co/ZZSJ3u0igV
— Hollie Power (@HolliePowerMD) September 13, 2018
Several years ago, I became what I call an “accidental advocate” for the gender pay gap and found myself on the cover of the electronic edition of The New York Times after writing the editorial for an infuriating JAMA IM paper about the gender pay gap where the authors (all male and all #heforshe) tried to control anything they could. The $20,000 pay gap would not go away, despite all the things they could control. What was interesting is there were some bright spots – places where there were no gender gaps. Clearly, culture matters. Moreover, these biases are cemented early and affect our trainees. Studies by our group and others have shown that females in male-dominated training specialties face a “likability penalty” for acting like a leader. This is starting as early as 2nd year of residency! So imagine what being a female leader is like. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, “When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.” While the likability penalty is sometimes debated, it clearly resonates.
Reflections on #MeToo from Reshma Jagsi who led US study. 30% of women in academic medicine suffer sexual harassment: Why was my scholarship not substantial enough for him to see me as colleague who has done important research instead of objectifying me?https://t.co/yib5sdMrg5
— Sally Brett (@SallyBrett2) March 14, 2018
In the wake of the entire #metoo movement and the #metoomedicine movement, we need to recognize that we are in a deeply entrenched hierarchical environment, and it is time for a movement to bring the needed change for our culture to change. Just like the “To Err is Human” report catalyzed the IHI’s 100,000 Lives Campaign and the needed change in event reporting culture in hospitals to promote safety, we need a similar campaign and movement to catalyze change to stamp out gender inequities and eliminate harassment. There is no time like the present and no group of leaders like this – some of the leading minds on the topic, like Drs. Julie Silver, Reshma Jagsi, Esther Choo, Dara Kass and many others are leading this charge. As we fight for equity for our patients, we deserve to promote these same principles for our colleagues. You can read more about the TIME’S UP Healthcare origin story here. That is why I joined TIME’S UP Healthcare, and that is why you should, too.
Also, come see me and others talk more about advancing gender equity in hospital medicine at Hospital Medicine 2019 – there are a number of can’t-miss sessions and a Women in Hospital Medicine Special Interest Forum that will inspire you to be a part of the solution.