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New Survey Finds Physician Moms Experience Discrimination in the Workplace at Higher Rates

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Jun 09, 2017 | 0 Comments

Discrimination against women in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. Instances of unequal treatment, unfair pay and sexual harassment committed against women make headlines far too often, shedding light on the reality that sexism is still prevalent in many industries in the United States. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California San Francisco highlighs just how common it is for mothers in the medical profession to experience discrimination at work.

An internet community called the “Physicians Moms Group (PMG),” which has 70,000 plus members, is a Facebook group for physician mothers to share their work experiences and make connections with other working mothers. Within the community, there are thousands of detailed accounts of discrimination from counterparts and other job interviewers, especially in relation to maternity. Medical professional and writer for the National Public Radio, Alexandra Sowa, shared an experience she had on the site and in an article while applying for a prestigious medical position.

“If you become chief resident are you just going to get pregnant and have a baby?” the male attending physician and interviewer asked. “That's what all the female chiefs do, and I'm tired of it,” he said. She recalls him shaking his head in clear disgust. Sowa says her knee jerk reaction was to make a joke about working so hard that she barely has time for her husband, and couldn't even dream of having enough time to make babies with. After the interview, she pulled her application and continued her residency. She says she gave birth to a baby boy towards the end of her training.

Sowa's experience, along with thousands of similar experiences by mothers in the medical profession, inspired UCSF researchers to create a survey that revealed the enormity of this issue. Lead researcher and professor of medicine, Dr. Eleni Linos partnered with the PMG's founder, Dr. Hala Sabry, to survey the group for data. The research team surveyed approximately 6,000 physician mothers who belonged to specialized areas of medicine to determine the enormity of perceived workplace discrimination. Even the researchers were shocked by their findings.

Of all the respondents who participated, 77.9% of women reported discrimination. About two-thirds claimed that they experienced gender discrimination and one-third of the women claimed that they had been subject to maternal discrimination.

About 32% of the mothers who said they had experienced maternal discrimination say that they experienced it while pregnant or when making plans for maternity leave. About 17% of them attributed it to breastfeeding. Linos said that out of anyone, doctors are the most knowledgeable about breastfeeding and its benefits for babies. She says she's surprised that it's still an issue in this field despite the knowledge medical professionals have.

“We know that breastfeeding has health benefits for children, so as physicians, that is a basic medical fact. We teach it and try to educate our patients on it. It is funny that our own workplaces don't have a place to support that.”

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, you should consult with a skilled attorney who is willing to advocate for you. Contact the experienced attorneys at Benassi & Benassi for a consultation.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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Practice Areas

Workers’ Compensation
Motor Vehicle Accident
Family Law/Dissolution
Personal Injury/Nursing Home Negligence/Medical Malpractice
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination
Retaliation claims and Whistleblower in the Workplace
Class Action Lawsuit and Multi-Plaintiff Cases
Civil Rights Litigation
Employment Law