Physician moms say they face workplace discrimination

Women doctors
Women physicians say they face workplace discrimination, much of it based on motherhood.

Physicians who are also mothers say they face workplace discrimination based on gender and related to giving birth or caring for their children. 

survey of almost 6,000 physician mothers found that four in five report discrimination in the workplace, much of it tied to maternal issues. The study by University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researchers was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers posted a survey on the Physician Moms Group, an online community with physician members who are mothers, and asked about perceived workplace discrimination. A total of 66.3% reported gender discrimination and 35.8% specifically reported maternal discrimination based on pregnancy, maternity leave or breastfeeding.

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The survey pointed to the need for changes in the workplace, the researchers said. To promote gender equity and retain high-quality physicians, the researchers said that employers should implement policies such as longer paid maternity leave, backup child care, lactation support and increased schedule flexibility.

“Physician mothers treat patients, raise children, teach students and care for sick relatives and friends,” study author Eleni Linos, M.D., DrPH, an assistant professor medicine at UCSF, said in a statement. “But who looks after them? We need to make sure these women get fair and unbiased treatment at the workplace.”

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Nearly 78% of the doctors surveyed reported gender discrimination that ranged from disrespect and reduced pay to being overlooked for promotions or being held to higher performance standards.