Why Women Physicians Need A #GirlTribe

Illustration: Jennifer Bogartz

A Texas-based male physician recently came under fire after having been quoted in a medical journal stating female physicians earn less because we do not "work as hard".

A repost on the Facebook group Physician Mom's Group, an online community of over 70,000 female physicians, ignited outrage and dismay. As the information was quickly distributed amongst the women a formal complaint was made against him, the journal which published his statement, and his place of work. Several took to their personal Facebook pages, Instagram, and Twitter to voice their concern over these statements.

As word began to spread within the medical community and the general public, The Yelp page for his private practice was inundated with negative critiques and the official website for his practice was quickly removed. After all the media attention, within 48 hours of publication, he made a public statement, apologizing for his declaration, expressing his words were taken out of context and voicing that he had nothing against women physicians. However, it was too little too late as the damage had been done.

Angered and disappointed, many female physicians expressed their concerns about a fellow physician who is supposed to be a colleague and ally, openly expressing these feelings. What hurt more was the fact that he had these opinions for some time and was only verbally expressing it now. What made things worse was when it was revealed that he plays a leadership role within the hospital system he works for, making key decisions in the lives of both male and female doctors. Through the lobbying of Physician Mom's Women's Group, this man's true colors and thoughts were exposed for all to see. Likely, if someone had not said anything, it is possible that he may have continued to live and practice, harboring these negative feelings towards women.

This unfortunate event had me thinking about the power that lies when people, specifically women, come together. Medicine is a field which was initially dominated by men, with Elizabeth Blackwell being the first female graduate in 1849. Over time, the United States has seen a large growth of women matriculating into medical programs, with thoughts that there may be more female physicians than men in the future. This does not mean gender bias is behind us. From salary differences to patients not believing we are "just as smart", female physicians continue the upward battle to gender equality in the workplace. However, by joining together, we can work on these issues as a cooperative, eventually making an impact on our own lives and those who will come after us. Here are a few other reasons female doctors need to team together.

1. You Need Someone to Relate To

Being a female physician can often be isolating. Being the head of a hospital team, or the leader of a group is isolating as people may feel they can not relate or open up to you. Non-women employees may also feel intimidated and not open up to you or want to create a bond outside of work.

Speaking with other female physicians, however, allows for a camaraderie no one else may understand. You can discuss situations that are particular to this special group and confide in one another on things no one else may understand.

2. There's Strength in Numbers

As mentioned earlier, there were 70,000 female physicians who were able to use the power of social media to expose a colleague who was biased against women. This could not have been possible without the sheer number of women involved. Influence can be gained via a group of people rather than through an individual, making belonging to a tribe of great benefit.

3. You Need Someone to Remind You of Who You Are

Being a doctor is tough, being a female doctor is tougher. It can be very uplifting to go through the trials and tribulations of a very vigorous career with someone else. You need a fellow woman in the same shoes as you to tell remind you of how awesome you are when things are not going expected. You also need someone to remind you of your best self when you are at your worst. These pep talks by a peer can be the right self-esteem boost needed to continue the way forward.

Surrounding yourself with strong, like-minded women dealing with the same trials and tribulations you are facing is both comforting and uplifting. What started off as a physician voicing very harsh opinions, turned into women coming together to show that they were not less than, but rather could achieve greatness when banning together.

What are some other great benefits to being in an all-women collective?

Dr. Akua Ampadu is a hospitalist physician passionate about quality inpatient and outpatient adult care. As a survivor of work and life related burnout, she aims to provide tools necessary to live a life focused on self-care and self-advocacy. She also recognizes the importance of reading to one’s health and created Healing Words Foundation in 2016, a literacy-based charity focused on providing books to pediatric wards and outpatient clinics. She is active on social media.

Dr. Ampadu is a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.

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