#MedToo... Harassment of Women in Medicine


When the #MeToo revolution began, it seemed more than overdue to me. Over the past year, I’ve come to realize the only way women have a chance at equity, and reasonable treatment is to continue to shine a light on this issue.

First, the salary inequity.

Can someone explain how anyone can accept receiving less pay for the same work? There was a Mary Tyler Moore rerun from the 1970s where she asked about salary disparity and was told, “It’s because he has a family to support.”

Some women in medicine make as little as 61% of their male counterparts. Old attitudes and research report this is due to decreased hours for child rearing, lack of productivity for spending more time per patient visit, and lack of initial salary negotiation. One example shown to me reflected that if a woman didn’t use her voice to negotiate that original salary up by just $10,000 a year, it reflected a loss of nearly a million dollars of earnings over her career.

So many women don’t negotiate their salary or ask for a raise because they don’t want to make a fuss. Read the book “Getting to Yes” and learn to negotiate, women!

Second, the harassment issue.

There is a significant, but profound, difference between being harassed because you’re a woman and being sexually harassed.

I’ve come to realize that I missed the latter early in my career because of my extreme youth. By the time I was in surgical residency, though, my surgical residency colleagues, with the full knowledge and encouragement of the program director, had assaulted me so often, including cutting my pants off on a street corner, attacking me during a meeting, and attempted rape, and then moved to threatening my family, the head doctor at the hospital called me into his office one day and said, “Gail, I’m going to have to pull you from the surgical residency. I just can’t guarantee your safety.”

We have to do better at recognizing and challenging when we deserve better treatment. We work hard. We do the best things for our patients, but not always for each other. We need to recognize and take the road less traveled and stand up for what is right, not expedient, to make things better for the generations that follow.

No one deserves to be treated as I have been. I’ve finally learned that always being willing to do what was asked – extra hours, extra patients - isn’t the right or fair thing to do. I choose another path.

In the meantime, I’ve begun to follow my daughter. She’s obtaining a Master’s in Development Practices, “sustainability,” as she puts it with a global focus on the environment and women’s access to rights. This Millennial generation who have learned to put self-care first may just get it right. As we elect more women to office as a better reflection of society, perhaps we’ll get closer to the society our children, and we so richly deserve.

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A successful physician, professor, and mother, it still took Gail decades to understand her own value. Now, in a new job, she'll finally reap the rewards of a group that celebrates it too.