Philadelphia Medicine, Fall 2017 - 30

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Chair of Women Physicians Caucus
Speaks to Students at
Thomas Jefferson, Sidney Kimmel
School of Medicine
By: Sherry L. Blumenthal, MD, MSEd, FACOG

I

had the pleasure of addressing a group
of medical students about the discrepancies in wages, leadership, and
representation of women physicians in
most of organized medicine.

Although the audience was mostly
women, there were also three men. This
was very encouraging and their feedback
was important.

Women lag in leadership positions, even
in specialties that care for women, such
as OB/GYN, or have a large number of
women practicing in that specialty, such
as Pediatrics. Department chairs are still
largely male. Only one academic hospital
in Phila. has a female chair of OB/GYN
(HUP). In medical societies, there are many
less presidents and members of the Board
that are female.

The facts show a 35% wage discrepancy
between men and women physicians in
Pa., with a greater discrepancy in the
South and less in states where there is a
physician shortage (the Dakotas have a
discrepancy of only 21%). In each specialty
there is also a wage gap (in vascular surgery,
women physicians make only 85% of their
male colleagues' salaries for the same work
schedule).

Assertive women are viewed as aggressive, and many men (and women) admit
that they are uncomfortable working for
a woman. We did discuss that we must
take charge when we are in charge, and
that not everyone may "like" us for acting
appropriately, but eventually perceptions
may change and we may not be locked into
behaviors previously deemed "appropriate"
for women.

There are many reasons for the wage gap.
First, women in general are paid less than men in all fields, and
we frequently do not know this because there is little transparency.
The fact that we may become pregnant, whether or not we do,
influences employers to pay us less! Also, we do not ask what men
in equivalent positions earn, nor do we ask for raises as frequently
as men do. Part of this is due to the "Imposter" syndrome. Our
culture discourages our self-esteem and competence as women in
previously male fields, and many women feel, unjustly, that they
do not deserve more. This feeling may be unconscious.

30 Philadelphia Medicine : Fall 2017

Reasons women physicians give for
not trying to advance in leadership are: work-life balance, feeling
unwelcome/uncomfortable in those positions due to politics, sexism
and gender discrimination, and lack of mentors. In two-physician
families, over 60% of childcare and household duties are performed
by the woman, and the female is more likely to compromise her
career goals.
My message is that we all must become involved and active to
change the system. While I am the least likely person to become
involved in Organized medicine, I believe that this is the best way



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