(HealthDay News) — Physician mothers experience discrimination in a range of ways, which can impact the medical profession, according to a study published online in The BMJ.
Meghan C. Halley, PhD, MPH, from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a qualitative analysis of physician mothers’ free-text responses to questions about workplace discrimination, which included the open question: “We want to hear your story and experience. Please share.”
A total of 947 free-text responses were analyzed. The researchers noted diverse and vivid descriptions of maternal discrimination experiences, including application of a higher standard to physician mothers versus their colleagues, limited opportunities for advancement, financial inequalities, and lack of support during the pregnancy and postpartum periods. Several potential structural drivers of maternal discrimination were identified. These drivers included broader cultural norms, such as gender norms in society and expectations of women; the culture of medicine as evidenced by assumptions that mothers cannot be successful doctors and vice versa; and the structure of medicine based on participants’ perceptions that workplace structures perpetuate maternal discrimination. Responses from the participants also highlighted the downstream consequences of this discrimination in terms of their physiological impact and the effect on career, family, and the health care system.
“Challenging norms around motherhood in the medical workplace, as well as structural changes that address pregnancy, parental leave, and childcare, are needed in order to mitigate the impacts of maternal discrimination in medicine,” the authors write.