In general, doctors in California and other parts of the country are among the highest earners in the United States. However, results from a survey published in a leading medical journal show that more than a third of doctors questioned who are also mothers face some type of discrimination in the workplace. And it’s mainly because they have children. The anonymous survey is based on comments from approximately 6,000 respondents.
The type of workplace discrimination frequently reported by the female doctors and mothers included lower salaries than colleagues, fewer opportunities for advancement, and lack of support while pregnant. Some of the respondents discussed instances where they were purposely excluded from activities outside of work, including somewhere they could have made connections that might have led to advancement because it was assumed they wouldn’t be able to attend since they have children. The study’s co-author believes the comments suggest some women doctors are fearful of reporting discrimination due to concerns that it may jeopardize their employment status.
There’s also the possible impact on patient care. Separate research shows that patients treated by female doctors have lower mortality and readmission rates. Comments from a different survey show that some women doctors also face discrimination in other situations. For instance, one flight attendant refused to allow a black woman doctor to assist a passenger in need, claiming she wasn’t an actual physician. The airline has since changed its policy of requiring credential verification. Backup childcare and longer paid maternity leave are some of the changes the women doctors surveyed want to see.
Federal law, state laws in California, and many local laws prohibit the type of employment discrimination discussed here. If an employee makes an honest effort to report incidents involving themselves or co-workers and nothing is done, a lawyer is often able to investigate the situation to determine how to proceed legally. An attorney may also assist should there be retaliation for reporting discrimination. In some situations, an effort may be made to look for patterns of unequal treatment for certain employees, which could also include subtle instances of discrimination.