Today over lunch our AMWA chapter (American Medical Women’s Association) hosted a Q&A panel with five female physicians. It was an informal session so that we students in the audience could ask whatever was on our minds related to being a woman in medicine. The women were from varying backgrounds and specialties and ranged from their thirties into their sixties, so they provided many useful perspectives. I wish I had been a longer session because I had many more questions I could have asked, but I thought I’d share the tidbits of advice for women in medicine that they gave us during the hour:
On being treated differently…
- Many of them experienced being treated differently, but much of that was a generational issue.
- Lots of other things factor into how you are treated, particularly your race (for better and for worse.)
- Prove your worth with your skills!
- Choose your battles.
On having being pregnant and having children…
- In general it was much easier to be pregnant and have small children as an attending as opposed to while still in training. In residency it is very difficult to get time off, to get adequate rest, and to still be on the top of your game at work. Regardless, it’s still doable.
- You might think you’re in control of timing, but you’re not! Every timing of pregnancy has pros and cons.
- Morning sickness while working in the hospital sucks:)
- Having a career outside the the home makes them better moms, and their kids benefit from having a hardworking mother as a role model.
- They would have never thought of working less until they had their child, but the bond between a mother and child is like nothing you could ever imagine. A few of them chose to go part-time after having children.
- Look into maternity and paternity leave for your jobs! Get things written into your contract if possible, even before you think you’re going to have children.
On having leadership roles…
- More women need to be in leadership roles! It’s lonely as a woman at the top.
- The more women that are in leadership roles, the better things will get for women physicians.
On equal pay…
- Studies show women get paid less, but much of that could be attributed to poor negotiating skills. Learning how to negotiate properly is one of the most beneficial things a woman could do for her career.
- Know the median salary for your career in your area so that you have a solid argument for better pay.
- Equal payment is becoming more common these days, but some men still share totally inappropriate and ridiculous reasons for why women don’t or shouldn’t be paid as much.
- Time is money. Use your money to pay for things you don’t want to spend time on (such as house cleaners, etc) so that you can use your time away from work to be with your family or do other things that are important to you.
- “Balance” looks different for everyone.
- Make sure you and your partner have an agreement about the relationship and parenting responsibilities.
- Consider scheduling flexibility when choosing a specialty.
- Not everyone gets to love what they do, and having a career you love is worth the sacrifices.
What do you ladies think of these? Any women in medicine have some tips to add?