Some of my: Inventions | Magazine interviews | Sheds | Favorite ER memories

Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD

 

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?

Female physician

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.


A shed designed &
built by Dr. Pezzi
More pictures of it

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.

Melanny

Answer by , 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:

Next page on this topic >

Women's long work hours linked to alarming increases in cancer, heart disease

Shift work unwinds body clocks, leading to more severe strokes: Research finds living against our body clocks is detrimental to our health

Superwoman: A Hard Act to Follow

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi: No, Women Can't Have It All

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'

[Female] Physician Dies After Patient Attack in Dallas Hospital

Worked to death? Study says lack of control over high-stress jobs can lead to early grave

Book: Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

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)

Billionaire investor says babies are like divorce: they both 'kill' focus

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.

Full-time professional to full-time mother: A choice laden with cost

Researchers with children: A disadvantage in academia

Women driven by status, wealth rather than wanting babies, study suggests

Dads who do chores bolster daughters' aspirations

Men's Involvement at Home: Sports 1, Housework, 0

Exactly How Much Housework Does A Husband Create?

Dads, not just moms, battle balancing work, family, exercise

A Woman's Work Is Never Done?

Married Men Really Do Do Less Housework Than Live-In Boyfriends

A Man's Occupation Linked to Time Spent On Housework, Study Finds

Just 20 Minutes Of Weekly Housework Boosts Mental Health (no wonder I'm so happy! :-)

Forget Marcus Welby: Today's docs want a real life

Working Odd Shifts Can Hurt Parent-Child Relationships (Ya think?)

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)

Average 25% Pay Gap Between Men and Women Doctors Largely 'Inexplicable' based on Is there equal pay in healthcare? Not if you are a doctor

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.

When Mom Is CEO at Home, Workplace Ambitions Take a Back Seat

In Dual-Career Couples, Mothers Still Do the Most Child Care

When the baby comes, working couples no longer share housework equally

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

Increased risk of coronary heart disease seen among women who work rotating night shifts

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.”

Long Term Night Shifts Linked to Doubling of Breast Cancer Risk

Shift Work Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke based on Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis

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

Work-Related Stress Linked to Increased Blood Fat Levels, Cardiovascular Health Risks based on The relationship between job stress and dyslipidemia

Rotating Night Shift Work Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women, Study Finds

Night Work May Put Women's Health at Risk (Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes … and cancer, too? Yikes!)

Women Working Shifts Are at Greater Risk of Miscarriage, Menstrual Disruption and Subfertility

Molecular Link Between Circadian Clock Disturbances and Inflammatory Diseases Discovered based on Circadian clock protein cryptochrome regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines

Rotating Shift Workers Have Lower Levels Of Serotonin

Night Work May Impair Glucose Tolerance

Shift work linked to heightened risk of type 2 diabetes

How Long Hours at Work Hurt Your Health

Working Moms Spend Less Time Daily On Kids' Diet, Exercise based on Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data

Physicians Lead MomDocFamily Support Group

Study finds Working Moms Feel Better Than Stay-At-Home Moms

Working Moms Multitask More and Have Worse Time Doing So Than Dads

'All Work' Won't Help 'No Play:' Professor Scrutinizes Link Between Job and Life Satisfaction

Medicine -- A Woman's World?

Motherhood 'Detrimental' to Women's Scientific Careers, Study Concludes

Thirty-Five-Hour Work-Week Recommended for Parents

Most Women Would Choose Surgical Profession Again based on Women Surgeons in the New Millennium

Surgeon-Physician Marriages Can Place Stress On Careers, Emotional Health

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.

Women Speak Less When They're Outnumbered based on Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation

Women's Scientific Achievements Often Overlooked and Undervalued based on The Matilda Effect in science: Awards and prizes in the US, 1990s and 2000s

Gender Gap: Selection Bias Snubs Scholarly Achievements of Female Scientists, Study Suggests based on Scholars' awards go mainly to men

Why Are There Too Few Women Consultants in Surgery?

Why Do So Many Women Leave Biology?

Is Shyness Holding You Back at Work?

Women With Elite Education Opting out of Full-Time Careers: Women With MBA's Are Most Likely to Work Less

Stress-diabetes link detailed in new study: Connection established between anxiety control, inflammation, Type 2 diabetes

Many Top U.S. Scientists Wish They Had More Children, Study Finds; 25 Percent of Scientists Consider Leaving the Profession for Family Life

Fathers' long commute to work is linked to children's social, emotional problems

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.

Women Sell Themselves Short On Team Projects, Study Suggests based on It Had to Be You (Not Me)!: Women’s Attributional Rationalization of Their Contribution to Successful Joint Work Outcomes

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