Survey finds female doctors with children face discrimination

    (dolgachov/Bigstock)

    (dolgachov/Bigstock)

    Being a doctor and a mother isn’t easy.

    Amanda Jones is a pediatrician in Abington, Pa., and she remembers what it was like to have her first son while doing her residency at a hospital.

    “Every fourth night, I was on call in the hospital for 30 hours, I chose to breastfeed my son…but that meant pumping every three hours when I was away from him”

    But that’s not all.

    A new survey of an online group of physician mothers, published in the May 8 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, found that out of more than 5,700 respondents, more than 2,000 say they were discriminated against at work because they were mothers.

    Examples include being paid less than their male peers and “disrespectful treatment.”

    Eleni Linos is an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California San Francisco and one of the authors.

    She says employers should consider policies like longer paid maternity leave, child care, and more flexible schedules, and not just because they’re good for mothers.

    “What we do know is that the same policies that support gender equity are likely to be good for reducing burnout, and therefore the types of policies that these women are requesting are probably good for both them individually as well as the healthcare system.”

    Doctor burnout is already a serious issue that has been getting worse, leading about 400 to commit suicide each year.

    This survey follows previous research showing female physicians at medical schools are paid less, and are less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts.

    Linos said the researchers plan to follow up this work with a long term survey of the physical and mental health of physician mothers.

    Discrimination against mothers in the workplace is a problem in other fields as well.

    Research shows that women in academia pay a “baby penalty” and that is a major reason why we don’t have more women in academic science.

    A 2012 article for the Harvard Business Review says this kind of discrimination is called “maternal wall bias” and “takes the form of comments like ‘Don’t you feel bad leaving your kids at home? Don’t you miss them?'”

    The article goes on to say that working mothers have become more likely to sue employers for discrimination, and juries are increasing sympathetic if gender bias appears to have derailed careers, leading to a new field of employment law — family responsibilities discrimination.

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