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Women Make Better Doctors—But They Face Discrimination and Burnout

A shockingly high amount of female physicians report facing discrimination on the job, according to a new study study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal.

by Diana Tourjée
May 8 2017, 6:25pm

Photo by VICTOR TORRES via Stocksy

Women in America are, generally, treated like shit; despite advances made by women working across sectors, from the judiciary to big business to the medical industry, society is largely governed by old white men.

A new study reveals the extent of discrimination faced by female doctors who choose to become mothers, finding that 66 percent of female physicians with children report experiencing discrimination on the basis of their gender. In other words, less than a quarter are spared from gender discrimination.

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The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, polled members of the Physicians Moms Group, a popular online community comprised of over 60,000 doctors who self-identify as moms. Nearly 6,000 moms responded to the survey, which asked about discrimination based on race or ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and pregnancy and maternity leave, among others. Of these respondents, 77.9 percent said they'd experienced any type of discrimination, 66.3 percent reported gender discrimination, and 35.8 reported maternal discrimination.

Nearly half (49.2 percent) of the women who said they had faced maternal discrimination reported experiencing "burnout," which is a self-defined term that generally refers to one's exhaustion with their current job. This is significantly higher than the burnout rate among women who didn't experience maternal discrimination, at 33.9 percent. Additionally, nearly a third of women who reported maternity-based discrimination said that they were denied equal pay and benefits when compared to male peers, and over half said they'd been disrespected by support staff .

These findings are in line with our understanding of widespread discrimination and discrimination against women in the US. But they could have repercussions beyond hospital staff, as the research notes: In February of this year, a study found that less people die or have to return to the hospital when women doctors care for them.

"Our findings suggest that gender-based discrimination remains common in medicine, and that discrimination specifically based on motherhood is an important reason," the authors conclude. "To promote gender equity and retain high-quality physicians, employers should implement policies that reduce maternal discrimination and support gender equity such as longer paid maternity leave, backup child care, lactation support, and increased schedule flexibility."

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