Our diversity as women in medicine goes beyond race, ethnicity, and nationality. Throughout medical school, graduate school, and residency, various groups for women in medicine have sponsored lectures, panels, and workshops about work-life balance. This is almost always a euphemism for parenting and task-sharing with your husband. These events often feature a successful straight white female physician, perhaps with a stay-at-home husband. Just as frequent are the panels that inevitably devolve into a discussion about daycare versus nannies.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 40 – No 03 – March 2021
Meanwhile, some of my female colleagues have had difficulty conceiving and, after multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization, decided not to have children. My LGBTQIA+ colleagues are encountering a different set of challenges and expectations, ones not usually covered in what are frequently heteronormative events. Some of my colleagues stopped going to women’s group meetings because work-life balance sessions just didn’t apply to their circumstances often enough to be helpful.
Conversations about finding peace in relationships and parenting are undeniably important, particularly given the stigma surrounding these topics for female physicians. It is imperative, however, that we not equate “women in medicine” with “work-life balance” or with a particular set of assumptions about family life. Perhaps within events about balancing career with family and relationships, we could be more inclusive of stories of divorce and joint custody arrangements. We could talk about adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing, and gay and transgender physician parenting. We must also ensure that women in medicine events encompass a broad range of issues faced by female physicians. I am grateful that my residency’s women’s initiative features workshops on résumé building, contract negotiations, and responding to workplace microaggressions.
Know Your Own Shoes
The space of “women in medicine,” as it is currently configured, is not the most comfortable for those who may have another primary identity—as a racial/ethnic minority or LGBTQIA+ individual, for example. Social movements offer plentiful lessons that approaching women as a homogeneous group with needs based purely on gender caters to the needs of some while disregarding the needs of others.
We often hear the phrase, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” But it’s also important to know your own shoes. What is the lens through which you see the world? What privileges do you have? What are your unique needs as a woman in medicine? After answering these questions, it can become easier to consider how other women experience medicine and how to tailor support for their professional development. There is a distinction between invitation and inclusion. The former is easy; the latter requires deep self-reflection and can lead to powerful change.
“The Equity Equation” is curated by Dara Kass, MD, and Jenice Baker, MD, FACEP.