Women in Medicine Part 1
Can women "have it all?" That is, can they be good mothers, wives, daughters, friends, neighbors, and still be good doctors?
Are women as competent as men?
Are women achieving their potential?
What can women do to achieve more?
UPDATE: Some of what I wrote below years ago rubs me the wrong way, in tone if not in fact. But hey, people evolve, and some of it is right on the mark.
Q: Hi. I'm a mother of two and a premed student. Instead of studying Organic Chemistry as originally planned tonight, I stumbled upon your ERbook.net site and spent a good length of time reading it (that amount of time will remain undisclosed due to my chagrin).
I was particularly interested in your very thorough and lengthy rhetoric about why women don't maximize their potential. I found your list of personal accomplishments somewhat amusing. It's very apparent to me that you spend a lot of time alone and you do not have the demands of a wife or family. Your question was, "Well, what is the single woman's excuse?" Although I do see your point, I feel like you are missing the big picture. I don't have any statistics readily available, but I believe most women do have families.
I would like to give you an idea of my typical day: I get up at 5:00 AM to hop on the treadmill, study scriptures, meditate, and get to class by eight. I get home at 10:30 AM and my husband promptly hands me the baby, explaining he can no longer deal with him. I help my five-year-old daughter with reading or writing (right now we're working on vowels). Between feedings and diaper changes, I put in an hour of housework and a couple of continuously interrupted hours of studying. At 3:00 PM I commute a half hour to a college extension site to resume my work as a writing tutor. When I get home about 8:30, I put the baby to bed and read to my daughter, then I get one more hour of study time before I turn in at 10:00.
Now please explain to me just where in there I am supposed to be inventing perfect lawnmowers and beautiful sheds? I do dream of making robots. My real dream (and I am not being facetious here) is to program a robot to do housework. I think women are still in their evolution. I think the day will come when women will be repairing engines and discovering more than uranium. Twenty five years ago, men did not do housework and just look at them now. When I turn 65, (I am now 26) I'm willing to wager that these generalizations will no longer apply. I guess we'll see. As soon as my retirement begins, so does that robot.
As a side note, I loved your writing. I would like to ask you what you have done to lengthen your vocabulary. Very rarely do I run across someone with a more advanced mastery of the English language, but you were throwing some whopper words out there for me! :) I would also like to ask you if you have ever considered having a radio program? You are interested in talking about almost anything, and you most certainly have the abilities.
Thanks for the wonderful site.
Answer by Kevin Pezzi, MD: Melanny sent the above question to me after reading what I wrote about the Can women "have it all?" topic on my www.ERbook.net site. To facilitate a comprehensive discussion of this subject, I will copy those postings, and then comment further. This is a long topic distributed over the next several pages. On the following page is a question from another person, and my response to it, that summarizes my position on this matter:
Article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the July/August 2012The Atlantic: Why Women Still Can't Have It All (subtitled: “It's time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here's what has to change.”
A retired female surgeon wrote, “As for women in surgery? You can't have it all and be good at any of it. If you want to be a good mom, then stay at home or pick a 9-to-5 career.” (source: in a comment to that article)
Katya Andresen: Moving Above and Beyond 'Doing It All'
If Norwegian Women Can’t Have It All, Can Anyone? Subtitle: Even in a country with forward-thinking child-care policies, women still can't get ahead.
Former CFO Erin Callan Regrets Not Having Children, Reignites Work-Life Balance Debate In a New York Times article (Is There Life After Work?), she reflects “on the decisions I made in balancing (or failing to balance) my job with the rest of my life. … I didn't start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. … I don't think I could have "had it all" … I can't make up for lost time.”
“Forget work/life balance. You can sleep when you die. At least that's how Snapchat's Emily White and Coca Cola's Wendy Clark said they approach time management …” (source)
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Isn't Kidding About People Hating Successful Women
Excerpt: Sheryl Sandberg “published a new book called Lean In. The book offers career advice for women in a world that is still dominated by men.”
Comment: A seemingly mundane experience (a stray dog in my yard) unfolded in a way that taught me how true that is, as I discussed in Sexism isn't dead yet.
Just 20 Minutes Of Weekly Housework Boosts Mental Health (no wonder I'm so happy! :-)
Does Becoming a Doctor Pay Off for Women? * Excerpt: “Women who go to medical school just for the financial rewards of being a doctor could be making a mistake … The research found that after factoring in the high upfront costs of becoming a doctor, most women primary-care doctors would have made more money over their careers becoming physician assistants instead.” (*based on Are Women Overinvesting in Education? Evidence from the Medical Profession)
Genetic cause for shift work fatigue discovered
Excerpt: “Some people adapt easily to shift work, but not everyone can handle constant disruptions to their daily rhythm. Researchers have now found that a melatonin receptor gene influences tolerance to shift work.”
Don't shoot the messenger department: An article asks, “Are There Too Many Women Doctors? As an MD shortage looms, female physicians and their flexible hours are taking some of the blame.”
One of many studies documenting the risk of shift work (which is almost inevitable in emergency medicine): Female Shift Workers May Be at Higher Risk of Heart Disease
Time of day influences our susceptibility to infection, study finds
Excerpt: “We are more susceptible to infection at certain times of the day as our body clock affects the ability of viruses to replicate and spread between cells, suggests new research. The findings may help explain why shift workers, whose body clocks are routinely disrupted, are more prone to health problems, including infections and chronic disease.”
Higher Job Strain Associated With Increased Cardiovascular Risk for Women based on Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study
Night Work May Put Women's Health at Risk (Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes … and cancer, too? Yikes!)
Study finds Working Moms Feel Better Than Stay-At-Home Moms
NOTE: In mentioning these and other drawbacks pertaining to emergency medicine, my goal is not to deter students from choosing that profession, but to educate them so they can make informed choices.
Weight Discrimination Could Contribute To The Glass Ceiling Effect For Women, Study Finds
Excerpt: “Weight discrimination appears to add to the glass ceiling effect for women, finds a new study co-authored by a Michigan State University scholar.”
Comment: Years ago, I noted that the shape of a woman's body affected the shape of her wallet; specifically, thinner body, thicker wallet. I loathe discrimination, so I am not fond of this correlation, but that's just the way the world is, and the last time I checked, few people want to change themselves, only others.