It's "Doctor" To You

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phase, “Oh you’re really good at _____... for a girl.” I can distinctly remember being five years old and declaring to my kindergarten class that I intended to run for president one day and one little boy stared at me with confused eyes while he asked “How? You can’t do that as a girl.” This was just one of many instances that I was told I wasn’t capable, simply for being a girl. I thought that entering a STEM field in college would turn things around and put an end to these comments, but I was mistaken.

As a medical student, my classmates and I spend lots of time with patients. Despite wearing my white coat, many patients and other physicians refer to me as a nurse. Even when I meet someone new or am talking about college with someone I’m acquainted with, they often ask what my major is. I tell them that I am in medicine, and their follow up question tends to be “oh have you been enjoying nursing school so far?” It’s not that there’s anything wrong with nurses, I appreciate them and everything they do to make everyone’s job and patient’s life easier in the hospital, but I can guarantee that my male counterparts are not being asked the same question. Similarly, I know that I personally, as well as many female classmates, have experienced sexual harassment from patients within the hospital. Even when interviewing patients and asking them questions, they will look at my male counterparts when they answer, making sure that they are taking notes while completely disregarding me.

Even as the medical field continues to increase with respect to the number of female physicians, the stereotype that being a doctor is a predominantly male position still exists. Even my own medical class at UMKC is comprised of 70% women, while the remainder are men. One study found that, working within the same specialty, women get paid about 10% less on average for performing the same work as their male colleagues. In more competitive fields such as neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgery, this can mean about 44,000 dollars a year.

It’s no secret that the wage gap exists in nearly every profession. Although I cannot speak for every career path or major, I can speak on what I do know: sexism does exist in the medical field and it is blatant. I have been doubted. I have been harassed. I have heard plenty of sexist comments telling me to “take my assets elsewhere.” With the ridicule and having to work harder to earn recognition, I know we have much further to go in creating a sense of equality and respect for ourselves in medicine.