While I haven’t written in a while, I wanted to share this article because it discusses a topic close to heart: women in medicine.
It’s no small fact that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, and specifically in medicine. With nearly 2/3 of the medical field being male, one becomes curious about the factors leading to this inequality. Long hours and lower pay are considerable elements, though workplace discrimination is lately creeping into the picture:
This article discusses workplace discrimination in the medical setting towards women who breastfeed, take maternity leave, etc. This is not something new, but a topic finally reaching public attention. The article doesn’t offer a clear solution but points to the fact that this most prevalent topic deserves more attention and more understanding. Last year at the Society for Neuroscience Conference, I attended a panel on women in science to hear their perspectives on being prominent female neuroscience researchers and how they balanced their family/no family personal life. It resonated with me, a resounding agreement between all panelists, that proper parenting, time with children, and time with family needs to be normalized for both women and men. One researcher poignantly commented on how she felt it was her duty to step out of her office in the afternoon to take her daughter to the doctor’s office as much as it was her duty to complete her next grant to fund laboratory research. She also strongly asserted that father’s should feel as much pride, comfort, and acceptance in doing the same.
Stereotypical parenting is waining. So is the stereotypical work environment and stereotypical household structure. Yes there exists the range of good parents already, but what needs to change is the shock over a mom needing to breastfeed at work or take an appropriate amount of time off for maternity leave to raise a human being. It also shouldn’t be a shock for dad to be involved in the same or similar ways.
Back to the point though, of women in medicine and STEM fields. A friend recently recanted a story to me where her professor, at an ivy league institution, used a rape analogy to explain something in the class (totally unwarranted btw…). I admire people this friend who internalize a sense of social responsibility, because she actually confronted the professor about the incident in an op-ed to the class and spoke to him in person as well as to the class about his remarks. Unsurprisingly, he apologized for the comments yet admitted that he wasn’t even aware of the sexist and unwelcome connotations. She then worked with her professor to improve understanding of gender bias in traditionally male dominated fields, pointed to certain experiences women deal with everyday, and suggested ways he could address future classes that would expose gender stereotypes in science a relieve this gap. Everything counts. At heart, the issue seems to be a problem of awareness and empathy for someone different than you (this also applies to basically every other problem in the world… no?)
I do find it a personal duty to be a woman in science, a neuroscientist specifically, as well as someone who wants to balance a family one day. I hope that discrimination at large keeps getting brought to the table, day in and day out, as incessantly tiring as it may be, until individuals can see through another person’s eyes just what it took to be.