The feature article for the April 2018 edition of ENTtoday was “Otolaryngology’s #MeToo: Gender Bias and Sexual Harassment in Medicine.” On the fifth anniversary of the #MeToo movement, I’d like to reflect on the changes in our community and the changes we’ve seen because of this movement.
Explore This IssueApril 2023
That particular article highlighted the experiences of many female members of the otolaryngology community. Looking back, I notice many things that seemed “normal” at the time but, upon reflection, aren’t the way that women (or anyone) should be treated. The questions, “Are you having kids?” and “Are you single?” were common during my residency application process—so common, in fact, that at the time I didn’t think much of it. For the most part, I was very fortunate: I worked hard, and those efforts were recognized by wonderful mentors early in my career to whom I will be forever grateful.
My concerns did grow, however, as I moved further into my career. Experiences like being told by a senior leader, “My wife stays home and takes care of our children” during a meeting about pay inequity or being told by HR after a sexual discrimination incident not to “make a big deal of it because it would be bad for your career” brought the issue of gender discrimination front and center in my life. I really didn’t want to confront these issues while growing a career and raising three children, but my experiences motivated me to raise awareness of this topic to prevent others from having the same experiences.
I’m definitely not alone. Most, if not all, of us have stories to tell about experiences that have significantly impacted our lives, both personally and professionally. The feeling of not being valued while putting forth tremendous effort and making personal sacrifices isn’t something that can be adequately expressed in written words.
With intentional efforts by our community, we’ve made significant improvements in our field over the past five years. Through tremendous intentional efforts by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and residency program directors, the work lives of our residents have continued to improve. We’ve increased the number of female chairs at academic departments from 3.5% to 9.8%. And, in January 2023, we published the feature article, “Women Leaders in Otolaryngology,” to highlight the positive strides that have been made through the efforts of the Triological Society and others. We still have female faculty who are unpaid during parental leave, however, and a gender-based pay gap of 73 cents on the dollar. In our January 2023 issue, we polled our readers, asking, “Do you think that women have made large enough strides in otolaryngology leadership and gender equity?” Astonishingly, 50% said yes.
My ask for our community during this month would be to reflect on what this response says about our community and our future. I welcome your thoughts and will share mine in May. Together, we can hopefully start a larger conversation about what we want for the future of our field and how to get there.