As you may know, our cofounder was one of five women in her medical school class.
She’s a tremendous doctor, bringing compassion, strong instincts, and impeccable skill to the challenging field of pediatrics.
But she didn't have it easy along the way. She certainly experienced gender bias (to put it lightly) over the span of years. She thrived despite challenging conditions around her, and became a leader in medicine.
So as I flipped through the New England Journal of Medicine recently, a chart caught my eye. It showed women as a percentage of matriculants in US medical schools -- from 10% in 1955 to about 50% in 2017. Which had me wondering -- is gender bias a thing of the past for women in medicine? And what does it mean for our teams that the percentages of male and female doctors are changing so dramatically?
In "Recognizing Blind Spots - A Remedy for Gender Bias in Medicine?" Loren Rabinowitz, MD looks at the question of how gender bias functions in medicine. She cites data, both personal and quantitative, demonstrating that despite the changing numbers, gender bias and even sexual harassment are common in the medical workplace for women. And, women are underrepresented in leadership positions in medical schools and hospitals.
That said, she also points to data showing the richness that women bring to the medical field. One study, for instance, shows that patients treated by female doctors have better outcomes than those treated by male doctors.
In some ways, I notice that this changing landscape starts to make it feel like a competition for scarce resources among male providers and female providers. Does the growth of women in medicine -- past, present, and future -- come at a cost for men in medicine? It's a divisive question to ask, but I believe that it underlies many people's actions and is worth bringing to the surface.
My take? It’s in our interest to make sure that we don’t have a “zero sum” mindset. Women having a safe and respectful workplace for their practice of medicine doesn’t detract from men’s experience. In fact, strong medical teams depend on a diversity of opinions, experiences, and skill sets. And the truth is that our personal background (including race, gender, nationality, etc.) is big part of the experience and opinions that we bring to the table. When we create an environment that values these differences, rather than seeking to minimize them, our practice of medicine becomes richer and more nuanced.
Beyond just ensuring gender equity in medicine, I believe that it's important to look at the issue more broadly. Effective healthcare collaboration demands that we are respectful of all of the voices on our medical team. But this requires more than good intentions -- it requires that we have the appropriate tools to enable teams to truly collaborate, not just fit in with the hierarchy. If you don't use telemedicine for healthcare collaboration, I encourage you to think about what tools you do have to encourage the team to collaborate in all its diversity -- and in all its strength.