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Have We Achieved More Gender Equity in Pediatrics?

November 23, 2022

Although the majority of pediatricians are female, there continue to be widespread examples of gender inequality. In an article being early released this week by Pediatrics, entitled “Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in a Department of Pediatrics,” Dr. Anne Slater and colleagues from the University of Washington note that male pediatricians continue to make 20% more in salary every year than their female counterparts (10.1542/peds.2021-055933).

Has anything changed?

The authors surveyed the faculty in the University of Washington Department of Pediatrics in late 2020, asking about experiences with gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. A total of 290 faculty, comprising 55% of the entire faculty, responded.

Half of women reported experiencing gender discrimination and an equal proportion reported experiencing sexual harassment, compared with 4% and 9%, respectively, of men. Thirty percent of women experienced gender discrimination at least weekly to monthly. More women than men reported that these experiences undermined their confidence and career advancement, and believed that they were not paid or promoted on an equal basis with their male counterparts.

Of note, women who reported as being non-white had the highest rates of reporting gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

To the University of Washington Department of Pediatrics’ credit, after seeing the results of this survey, they have implemented policy changes to address these inequities. However, the authors note that “Awareness is not enough; it is time for new approaches to improving gender discrimination in pediatrics.”

Please read this article and reflect on what is happening in your own workplace. As Dr. Slater and her colleagues note, these behaviors are ubiquitous. A change in workplace culture, in which discriminatory comments or practices are no longer considered acceptable, is hard to accomplish, but establishing policies for equal pay, not penalizing part-time faculty, and creating pipelines for women to move into leadership positions are a start.

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