September marked the annual American Medical Association’s (AMA) Women In Medicine Month. This year’s theme was defined as “Women in Medicine: Advancing Equity, Creating Change”. An official hashtag (#WIMMonth), educational webinars, research grants and outreach events were hosted in collaboration with AMA across social media and in American hospitals and societies. Throughout the month, there were over 18,000 healthcare professional (HCP) authored posts globally relating to women in medicine on Twitter alone (more than double than the month before).
Beyond this month and campaign, HCPs continually join together to be vocal around the topics and issues they’re passionate about in a public, online forum, including race inequality and mental health.
The aim to celebrate women HCPs throughout the month was certainly achieved with thousands of posts dedicated to sharing the successes of females in medicine. As is seen throughout #MedTwitter (a tag used to collate conversations of medical topics on Twitter), HCPs across specialties took time to highlight their departments and the contribution of women to advancing science and medical care. Examples include #WomenInNephro and surgeons using the tag #ILookLikeASurgeon alongside images of the females in hospital departments.
As the world celebrates women in medicine we #womeninnephro celebrate nephrologist who make a difference. Dr Sonal Dalal known for her passion in teaching in one such lady nephrologist.@divyaa24 @gag_aggarwal @priti899 @krithicism @NamrataYParikh @Rashmiyadav88 @valerie_luyckx pic.twitter.com/wPFegST0gf
— Urmila Anandh (@AnandhUrmila) September 23, 2020
Women In @JeffersonUniv Neurosurgery. We've come a long way! Very proud of our residents @TTheofanis, @EllinaHattar, @CarrieEAndrews! Celebrating Women In Medicine Month! @rhrosenwasser @sklasko @TJUHNeurosurg #neurosurgery #ILookLikeASurgeon pic.twitter.com/7kwO52TWiM
— Stavropoula Tjoumakaris, MD, FAANS, FACS, FAHA (@StavTjoumakaris) September 30, 2020
Beyond celebrating each other, HCPs used the platform of Women In Medicine Month to call out inequalities in their workplace. From medical students to fellows and professors, HCPs shared their perspectives and called out discrimination they had experienced or observed.
In 2019, a WHO report found that across 104 countries, women make up an estimated 67% of the healthcare workforce, yet systematic differences exist as women tend to be in lower ranking and paid positions, such as nursing and midwifery. While there is an increasing number of young women entering the medical field, a pay gap still exists as women are paid approximately 22% less than men. There are multiple factors that may partially explain the pay gap, including differences in working hours and occupations, but WHO states that there remains a portion without explicit reason.
HCPs throughout this month used social media platforms to publicly call out these disparities as they experience them. The tag #PayHer was used 184 times by HCPs in the month, often alongside others such as #PromoteHer and #CiteHer – driving the case that #HerTimeIsNow!
Woke up with a special feeling today.
— Philomena Asante, MD MPH (@philoasantemd) September 1, 2020
Saw my first patient as an attending today. He says he likes women doctors better because they listen more. There is research showing this is true. https://t.co/wJkbmjICeX
— Allison Bean MD, PhD (@AlliBeanMDPhD) September 2, 2020
#WiMMonth also gave women space to illuminate and challenge bias they had observed in the workplace. Hundreds of posts were published from women in a spectrum of roles, specialties and seniority sharing from their own perspective, continually uplifted by their peers in the online community.
We talk about unconscious bias amongst professionals. How can we eliminate it if this is society’s reaction to it? I got laughed at
— Hayley (@hayleymagill) September 28, 2020
It was a pleasure to author this commentary with some amazing women in medicine.
“People like the sound of a male voice when it is making authoritative statements, but a female voice when it is being helpful.” We all need to be aware of our implicit bias. https://t.co/Ak0KDNB0g1
— Jessie Werner (@JessWernerMD) September 19, 2020
The month was more than raising awareness as HCPs teamed together to incite change in the medical field: HCPs drew attention to change in progress whilst exposing room for greater transformation in their workplaces.
Humbled to be 2nd Hispanic woman promoted to Professor @HopkinsMedicine school’s 127 yr history. @AAMCtoday <1% professors in US medical schools are Hispanic/Latina women. Change needed. ⬆️ support to #WomenInMedicine! @HopkinsKids #HispanicHeritageMonth #RepresentationMatters pic.twitter.com/nTp4pj2Pwm
— Maria Oliva-Hemker, MD (@molivahemker) September 16, 2020
Looking for a way to thank #WomenInMedicine for their amazing work fighting #COVID19 👩🏿🔬👩🏽⚕️& working to keep everyone safe? Please sign this petition & RT· #Healthcare leaders: #HerTimeIsNow👇🏼Advancing #Gender #Equity in #Medicine · https://t.co/eHktA4cqXc https://t.co/5frN8UWKSE
— Julie Silver, MD (@JulieSilverMD) September 30, 2020
In addition to overarching areas for change such as pay disparity and bias, female HCPs highlighted more specific issues they faced. One such matter is that of mothers in healthcare. Mothers shared the struggle they face, with one surgeon explaining the elevated difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This so perfectly exemplifies the juggle of working moms—which has been further intensified by the pandemic, with changes in our home and work lives and increased caregiving responsibilities falling more heavily on women. Thank you for sharing @GretchenTG. @WomenSurgeons https://t.co/eIOZKTXGNz
— Mara Antonoff, MD, FACS (@maraantonoff) September 16, 2020
❤️👩 supporting 👩
It’s hard & exhausting, u may not always have it “all”
But should NOT have to choose between being a mom & fellowship of choice, maternity leave & graduation, pumping & lunch
👶don’t grow on🌳
WE grow them & feed them
Let’s do better 🎯#WomenInMedicine
— Atoosa Rabiee (@AtoosaRabiee) September 24, 2020
There’s no denying that the pandemic has impacted every sphere of life and female physicians and healthcare providers took this opportunity to commend their own contributions to the fight on the frontline.
As #womeninmedicine month comes to an end, we must remember the leaders and #Sheroes
Who have worked tirelessly on the front lines, caring for COVID-19 pts, writing policy, balancing the difficult family dynamics & demands heightened by the pandemic. #hertimeisnow #HeForShe pic.twitter.com/7HpsxseEgJ
— Dr. Uzma Syed (@DrUzmaSyed) September 30, 2020
So many amazing #WomenInMedicine at @EmoryMedicine @EmoryRollins to recognize for their tirelessly work during #COVID19 including @Armstrws @colleenfkelley @JenniferSpicer4 @vcantosl @lfcollins_md @colleenkraftmd @Jlguest @SheenaKandiah
— Carlos del Rio (@CarlosdelRio7) September 1, 2020
Real change happens one step at a time
Ultimately, September was a successful and positive month of women supporting women, men celebrating their female peers and all healthcare professionals calling out gender bias and inequality in the workplace. As a woman in the healthcare industry myself, it’s inspiring to see so many intelligent and strong females shouting about the causes they believe in online, especially when that cause is themselves. While Twitter provides a perfect space for medical education and scientific discussions, the communities that can be developed alongside that are second to none, creating a positive space to induce change. The aim of the month was to advance equity and create change, and the HCP online conversation throughout the month certainly reflected these goals.
This month showed what is possible to achieve in an online network and the impact it can have to encourage offline discussions and change, and there is no reason the conversation should stop, or at all slow down. Women shall continue to honor and build each other up, and fight for equality in their workplaces. In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” -RBG
We are mourning, and yet we must continue to move forward and build on the legacy of those before us. Good thing we have each other (and ☕️).#RIPRBG #WomenInMedicine #HerTimeIsNow pic.twitter.com/nGzW4wcNyO
— Jillian Bybee, MD (@LifeandPICU) September 21, 2020