For the first time in history, there are more women than men in medical schools, according to data for the 2019-20 academic year from the Association of American Medical Colleges. It appears the future of healthcare is female! So, as we celebrate Women in Medicine Month, there’s an even greater emphasis on advancing equity and creating change for female physicians as well as their patients.
Women physicians face distinct challenges and burdens that can be exacerbated in times of crisis – and that’s especially true of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women shoulder the responsibilities of home life, in addition to their careers. With many kids out of school, playing the role of both caretaker and healthcare provider has become even more challenging. In multi-generational families, many women are also committed to taking care of their parents, and the lack of eldercare due to COVID-19 has made this responsibility all the more difficult as well. Finally, working on the front lines and in a hospital setting comes with increased risk of exposure, addings conflict and stress for women physicians who are also expected to care for their family at home.
For physician recruiters, it’s important to understand the needs of women physicians to help them build a foundation for success. Women are unique in what they value in a job and in the way they engage with patients. Without female physicians, women’s ideas also don’t get the audience they deserve.
Women physicians play critical roles every year, but this year we celebrate some of the notable work related to COVID-19.
- Torri D. Metz, M.D., M.S. is leading a nationwide study of the effects of COVID-19 on women during and after pregnancy at University of Utah Health.
- Infectious disease specialist and physician at San Francisco General Hospital, Annie Luetkemeyer, MD, has been studying why COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted minority populations after noticing that about 80% of her patients hospitalized with the virus were Latino.
- Pediatric endocrinologist at Duke Health, Nancie J. MacIver, M.D., Ph.D., is studying how weight and obesity may be tied to serious COVID-19 cases – and how that would likely apply to a vaccine.
Women are key for diversity in the healthcare workforce, but unfortunately, they’re notably underrepresented in leadership: women make up a mere 30% of C-suite teams and just 13% of CEOs.
Fortunately, many of America’s top healthcare employers are working to improve gender parity and ensure workplaces improve for women.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, is focusing on thoughtful and deliberate recruitment of female leaders at the senior leadership level. Peter WT Pisters, MD, Anderson’s President, says “We have also invested in mentoring programs for women, matching them with sponsors and providing helpful programs and inspiring speakers. With our workforce being 68% female, it is an understatement to say women are shaping our culture and critical to our mission to end cancer.”
If your organization is doing something similar, be sure to highlight this in your recruitment messaging to female candidates!
At Akron (Ohio) Children’s, where female employees comprise 84% of their workforce, they’ve set policies to protect income for workers who’ve contracted the virus or need to be in quarantine. “We also gave all employees who could work from home the ability to do so,” says Rhonda Larimore, chief HR resources officer. “We knew communication was important, so our leadership gave daily email and video updates about testing, screening, mask policy, the labor pool, and all the issues that were top of mind. We also set up a channel to answer questions.” (Note: Akron Children's and the Anderson Cancer Center were both listed on Forbes Magazine 2020 list of America’s Best Employers for Women.
Women in medicine are being tested during what is likely the most difficult time of their career, but they’re rising to the occasion. Thank you to all of the women physicians – and their recruiters – who are inspiring and supporting women and offering their time, wisdom, and support to advance women in medicine. If you are currently working with female candidates, the AMA has curated a library of resources to assist women in medicine and those who care for patients during COVID-19.
Interested in learning how to better engage physician candidates? Sign up for our free webinar on September 15, 2020: What Doctors are Reading and How to Engage Them With Your Content.