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The Difficulties of Dating While Being a Female Doctor

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By Chioma Udemgba, MD

I got called a lady boss the other day! It was an amazing feeling to have received this high praise!

L-A-D-Y-B-O-S-S: Simple words combined together to make me feel like I’m making an impact and doing my job right. The compliment came from one of the interns in my program. She shared with me and a co-resident that she was in awe of my all-female resident class. It was so cool to see us through her eyes.

And I as reveled in my awe-inspiring greatness, I started to think of all the #queens and #ladybosses that I knew—all of the extraordinary, intelligent, caring, boundless, and beautiful women that I had gone to medical school or worked side-by-side in residency.

But, of course, like in every classic TV comedy, I failed the Bechdel test and fell apologetically along heteronormative lines. My mind somehow drifted to the struggle these queens and lady bosses were experiencing in the dating world. Despite how remarkable and wonderful I know many of these women to be, a lot of them were having a hard time finding an equally prodigious partner.

It’s not that a woman’s only goal in life is to find a husband or that her every conscious thought is a preoccupation with her #foreveralone status. It is the human in us intelligent, career-focused, headstrong women who are inherently caring and selfless in our professional lives that seek the unmatched companionship and unbridled passion of a partner to share our personal lives. Unfortunately, as is the struggle for all educated women, female physicians and medical students find it harder to successfully date for a myriad of interesting reasons. And, unsurprisingly, it is even more difficult for women of color.

The dating world is a tough place to navigate for all women in general. As usual, if a conversation during girls night gravitates to the topic, we soon find ourselves sharing our failures, lamentably comparing dating battle scars. It would seem that dating for a female physician at any age or stage in her career is damn hard. Despite the new modern and accepted age of online dating and the fall of the adage that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, female physicians still find it very difficult to successfully navigate the complicated world of dating.

Despite our lack of free time, mountains of work stress, and a professional life that often bleeds over into our personal lives, there are several other reasons dating experts and sociologist have identified as issues that make it more difficult for educated women to successfully date. One of these ideas is known as the “dating gap”— the concept that there aren’t really enough educated men to go around. There has definitely been an obvious and palpable shift in who is more likely to pursue post-secondary education. As of 2015, medical school enrollment and graduates were composed of about 46% females according to the AAMC compared to closer to 7% in 1965. And with these ever-increasing rates of lady bosses graduating from college and specifically medical school, the negative consequence is that there aren’t enough men to go around. So if a female doctor tries to find a similarly educated man to pair herself with, the odds are unfortunately not in her favor. And that’s true regardless of where you are in the U.S. or any urban western country.

Image: Rémi Sorbet

The dating gap then leads to another issue that educated women often face in the dating world — the perception that a smart, successful, financially strong, and independent woman is only desirable in fantasy, not reality. Yes, you can try to date men who are out of your league or who are not as educated as you. But, sadly, according to a social psychology study, men find a woman who they perceive to be more intelligent more attractive until they are less of an abstract thought and more of a concrete reality. So, unlike what songs by Neyo, Lil Boosie, and Fabulous taunt as a flattering desire for an independent woman, men seem to still face social pressure to be the breadwinner and just prefer to be the alpha.

Knowing this, some women find themselves being unnecessarily vague when describing their job because saying “I’m a doctor compared to “I work in healthcare” sometimes just helps get them past date number one through we’re officially exclusive. And in case you weren’t already feeling completely hopeless about your prospects, according to statistics released by the popular dating app Tinder, the most attractive job for a woman to have is a physical therapist. Being a doctor doesn’t even make it to the top 5…or top 10… it literally doesn’t even make the LIST! But of course, being a doctor was ranked as the 4th most desirable profession for a man, right after pilot, entrepreneur, and firefighter. That’s just the dating world we live in.

So yes, the average American adult is less likely to be married now than, say, two generations ago since people are focusing more on their career and personal fulfillment than finding a spouse. There still is a stigma related to women working and not being the domestic, under-educated beauties we were once expected to be. Men still feel pressure to be the primary breadwinner and women still feel pressure to let them think that (at least on the first few dates)!

But it’s time that we help guide this shift toward a more logical place — where women and men are equal partners in a relationship and neither one compelled to fill the antiquated social roles of the 19th century. A man can still be a man in the relationship even if he doesn’t have the bigger paycheck or more prestigious job in the couple. A woman can be a work goddess, queen, and lady boss while still bringing all the same elements that a woman without a graduate degree brings to a relationship.

So, just keep the copay—date a female doctor!

Dr. Chioma Udemgba is a third-year Med-Peds resident physician currently training at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is passionate about creative writing, graduate medical edication, and working with underserved populations.

Dr. Udemgba is a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.

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