“You Should Change Your Major, Medicine is a Man’s Job”

As a woman entering the predominantly male field of medicine, I am well aware of the glass ceiling that lies ahead. Interestingly, while my mom was pregnant she was also well aware of the glass ceiling waiting for me. My mom had read a psychology study that stated if a man’s job application and a woman’s job application found their way to the same desk for evaluation, the man, let's call him Mark, would automatically get the interview over the woman, let’s call her Susan, because he was a man. 

Appalled by the results of this psychological study, my mom decided to cheat the system. She gave birth to a baby girl, me. She used the name Jesse because it is gender neutral, and spelled it with a male connotation purposely.  She said she gave me my name because she wanted to make sure I had a fair chance of getting the interview, and knew once I had the interview I could sell myself from there. 

Unfortunately, many gender work stereotypes continue to plague women in the workforce. Personally, I will never forget the day I proudly told my friend’s dad that I would be attending RIT’s PA program. His reaction was “you should change your major, medicine is a man’s job”. I grew up in a house where both of my parents told me I could be anything I wanted. Disgusted, I promised myself to never let ignorant words affect how I see myself. 

In fact, women are making great progress in breaking into notoriously male dominated jobs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of professional degrees awarded to women in medicine has increased from 8.4% in 1970 to 47.6% in 2014. This statistic shows that we are in fact making progress, barriers are more permeable, women have improved opportunities, advancement in corporations is more possible than ever, and education is leading the way in empowering women to pursue their dream jobs. 

Furthermore, Stereotype Threat still haunts some women. Stereotype Threat is defined as negative stereotypes targeting a social identity, providing the framework for interpreting their behavior, which causes the stigmatized person to feel mentally unstable leading to anxiety, poor work productivity, and threats to belonging. These negative stereotypes lead to an increased risk of being judged by or treated in terms of the stereotypes and serve to continue to pigeon hole women in the workplace. Some common negative stereotypes I am sure most people have heard are that women are more emotional which makes them unfit leaders, women are bad at math, and women care predominantly about their appearance. These stereotypes can make it more difficult for women to enter STEM fields. 

This being said, women are infiltrating STEM, but Stereotype Threat continues to make them feel out of place. To combat Stereotype Threat, women can practice self affirmation techniques, which encourage the confirmation of important personal values. Thought substitution tasks replace negative thoughts with positive ones and were proven effective in preventing Stereotype Threat. Although we still have an uphill battle to gender equality in the workplace, we have made incredible strides and I will continue to push to break the glass ceiling to honor those who fought before me and so that those after me will not have to know our struggle.