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Wednesday Oct 31, 2018

What Do Women Think? If You Only Knew …

[woman with hand on chin and thought bubble on blackboard]

I sometimes wonder how men might react if they could read the thoughts of the women they work with. What if a little bubble appeared over our heads as an event unfolded so they could see beyond the neutral smile or plain silence we give in uncomfortable situations.

Well, the question that often goes through our heads when the concerns arise is, "Why?"

  • Calling us "little lady" or "cute thing" makes us uncomfortable and dismisses our qualifications for the jobs we are doing in health care. We earned our degrees, so please use them when addressing us. Female physicians deserve to be called "Doctor," just like our male counterparts.
  • When women put forth an idea and are ignored, we do not appreciate the enthusiasm in the room when a male colleague restates our original idea as his own.
  • It's not OK to dismiss us from opportunities to lead or serve by stating, "Well, she has kids, so she won't be able to make it work," and then laud our male counterparts who take time away from their kids' activities for such endeavors.
  • Women work just as hard as men -- often harder -- and are extremely critical of ourselves because we sometimes feel we must fight for those who are coming behind us.
  • Do not try to take advantage of our "sweet nature" because we are fierce when we have to defend our own.
  • Women deserve equal pay for equal work, and it's painful to watch someone with fewer qualifications and/or a weaker work ethic get a higher salary for subpar work.
  • If you see injustice, you are complicit if you say or do nothing.
  • Don't "shush" us. And if you ask us a question, wait for the answer. The complete answer. Don't interrupt.
  • Crying is not a sign of weakness. It's often due to anger or frustration. Do not be fooled. We remember those who are kind to us when we're down.
  • Don't schedule business retreats in mid-June; someone has to attend the kids' graduation ceremonies.
  • There is no such thing as "business casual" for women. Honestly.
  • It would be great to have the equivalent of a golf course or alcohol/cigar bar where non-golfers, non-cigar smokers or non-drinkers could meet after hours and conduct business in a casual setting.
  • Please remember there are female scientists and researchers out there who are capable of being keynote speaker at major events.

When in doubt, just ask us.

These points may seem frivolous, but they are just some of the thoughts that go through our heads as we encounter our male colleagues daily. Trying to shatter the glass ceiling while climbing a slippery ladder is difficult. No one is perfect. But if everyone could take a moment to reflect on how they contribute to the sometimes difficult work environment we find ourselves in, it may lead to conversations and actions that ensure a level playing field.

Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 01:08PM Oct 31, 2018 by Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.

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