What You Can Do
Physicians can also make efforts to end gender disparities on an individual level, beginning with being open to learning more about others’ experiences. “We often don’t know what we don’t know,” Dr. Villwock said. “We have to be willing to have difficult and sometimes awkward conversations to better understand the perspectives of everyone involved.”
Explore This IssueJanuary 2020
Dr. Villwock also encourages otolaryngologists to assess their own biases and knowledge gaps. “Everyone needs to learn about unconscious biases—which we all have—and how they can manifest. Shed some light on yours by being aware of your own behavior patterns.”
Speaking up in unison is also key. “Have a united voice on what opportunities and changes should occur at your institution,” Dr. Wei said. “Physicians themselves must champion and not expect change to occur from the top down and from non-physician leaders, but instead lead change.”
The bottom line, Dr. Wei said, is that institutions must forgo the “we must not do anything special for women” attitude and stop fearing that they’ll be accused of giving special treatment to women. Instead, they should acknowledge the extraordinary efforts, perhaps even Herculean at times, that women must achieve and demonstrate just to be noticed to get on the same playing field as male physicians and surgeons, much less in leadership positions in organizational hierarchy at any level.
“It’s past the time of talk and well time for action,” Dr. Kerschner said. “If no specific steps exist, then demand that leadership give these issues more attention.”
Karen Appold is a freelance medical writer based in Pennsylvania.