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  • Cooperation and Support of Both Men and Women Are Required to End Workplace Discrimination
  • Anonymous Two

I grew up on a farm, driving machinery, using power tools, and doing whatever work needed to be done; never thought twice about it. I was the valedictorian of my rural Midwestern high school, and yet I grew up surrounded by relatives who say things like, "No God-damned girl needs to go to college!" I hated manual labor as a kid, so I focused on academics, convinced that an education would elevate me out of the misogyny and sexism of rural America. I finished my undergraduate degree in 3 years (despite not having any advanced placement credit). I had earned a Master's degree by the time I was 23 years old and entered the business world. I excelled there, too, managing multi-million-dollar projects, but was unfulfilled. I went on to complete my pre-medical requisites at night while continuing to work full-time. My performance in pre-meds was so good that I was invited to teach both as an organic chemistry teaching assistant and as an MCAT prep teacher. I was accepted into medical school and decided to complete a Master's in Public Health simultaneously. I am a hard worker. I expect a lot out of myself. I [End Page 203] accomplish goals. And yet, I am on the verge of abandoning my chosen career because of the sexism, misogyny, and gender discrimination, not to mention the downright unprofessional and unethical behavior that I've experienced in the nearly 20 years since starting down the road to becoming a physician and a surgeon.

Perhaps I was naïve to believe that hard work and a good brain were enough to be successful. Perhaps I was foolish to believe that everyone with higher education would be enlightened about gender issues in the workplace. What continues to surprise me is that much of the discrimination and harassment I've experienced has come from my peers, not from the "old guard." The first overt sexism I experienced was during medical school when a male classmate (who was also hoping to garner a coveted orthopaedic training spot) cornered me in the anatomy lab. He said, "Girls shouldn't be orthopaedic surgeons because you're going to get pregnant and leave more work for the rest of us." For the record, I have never taken maternity leave. On the other hand, I have covered every instance of paternity leave since I started training (and there was a lot). During training, I was put on call for every major holiday and every department party. One resident's excuse for making me cover the holidays was that "the guys have families," completely missing the point that I, too, have a family—one to which I do not go home every night. One peer refused to take call during our last rotation because he needed to study for our upcoming board exam, completely ignoring the fact that I, too, had to take the same exam. Rather than dumping the extra call on the junior residents, I absorbed the extra call. I passed the boards, none the less. One senior resident refused to do cases with me—a key part of my learning and development—simply because he wanted to do the cases with his buddy, his fellow senior resident. I was literally denied learning experiences in favor of the good ol' boys' club. As a board-certified attending, I'd spent hours with a particular family, explaining over and over again that the only way to fix the child's problem was with surgery. No, you do not have to have surgery. Yes, if you want the problem fixed, then you need surgery. No, physical therapy will not solve the problem, et cetera. Eventually, I suggested the family obtain a second opinion, certain that any colleague would back me up and reassure the family that my recommendation was sound. Instead of saying, "Your doctor is absolutely correct; have the surgery with her," my partner booked the patient onto his own schedule. (At the time, new to the practice, my surgery schedule was wide open, while his...


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