We must all join the fight for gender equality and equity

We must all join the fight for gender equality and equity

Dear colleagues,

For decades, gender equality referred to equal rights for women as compared to men: Equal pay for equal work, the opportunity to shatter the glass ceiling in corporate America, and reach the highest levels of success in any profession.

Over time, the definition of gender equality has changed. Today, equality in gender means the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for everyone will not depend on their assigned gender at birth. Women are affected by gender inequality, but so are men, trans, and gender-diverse people. It impacts children, families, and people of all ages and backgrounds. Men still overachieve what women can potentially reach even though females are half of the world’s population, historically and today in the modern world.

Sarasija Natarajan, M.D.
The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education
Internal Medicine – PGY-2

Many organizations are rewriting history and being called “progressive” for their work. The Wright Center has earned the right to be called a progressive organization. Our CEO is a woman, and several women are in leadership positions throughout the nonprofit enterprise.

Throughout history, people believed that men and women had specific gender-related roles determined by biology: Women are more nurturing and best suited to be mothers who stay home to raise children; men are more aggressive and less nurturing, best suited to go out to work and provide for the family; men are the income earners and women are the caretakers; and the burden of caring for the home and family is solely on women.

Gender is a social construct. It means men and women act differently because society has dictated their roles. They have learned how they should behave and sound.

The gender pay gap remains strong, especially for women who are mothers or caretakers. Did you know that, on average, women do three times as much unpaid work at home as men? It includes household work and caring for children and family members. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the challenges that women have long faced. Caregiving tasks across the lifespan still fall primarily on women. We will have achieved gender equality – better yet, equity – when a woman accepts maternity leave and still is considered for the same promotions, pay raises, and career advancements as her male counterparts.

Let us look at health outcomes. Are health outcomes affected by gender inequity? You are correct if you said yes. Studies show equal access to health care for all genders yields better health outcomes, including reduced depression and PTSD, decreased mortality rates, better self-rated health, and less alcohol consumption.

Now, what can we do to impact gender equality and equity?

As a reminder, equity means fairness of treatment according to needs. Here are some ways:

  • Continue to be educated about implicit bias and recognize how gender discrimination shows up. If you see something, say something. Support your colleagues who are facing gender discrimination;
  • Make gender equality a consistent part of conversations and everything we do to ensure it becomes part of our culture;
  • Help each other by being cheerleaders for each other’s accomplishments;
  • Celebrate our differences;
  • Demand prompt and non-retaliatory corrective actions in response to gender bias, harassment, or discrimination;
  • Take a moment to appreciate our mentors in life who lead by example, who may have made an impression on personal and professional practice, and who exemplify the success that comes with thinking beyond the boundaries of gender.

The uplifting note this blog aims to strike would be remiss without the mention of Alexis Samonte, M.D., MBA, FAAP, our former vice president of Sponsoring Institution Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, whose spirit reflects in this blog. The actual practice of an unbiased, inclusive outlook, requires consistent, conscious effort, and mindfulness. Dr. Samonte embodies this practice and serves as a role model of how strong leadership can be the driving force in building a harmonious workplace. Lending voice to those struggling with these biases and sowing the seeds of freethinking are ideas to her credit.

A gender balance perspective is not simple. We can celebrate great strides toward gender equality and move towards a greater challenge of achieving a truly diverse workforce and becoming the inclusive environment that we set out to build. As always, let us be respectful of the person, regardless of gender or other identities.

Thank you,

Sarasija Natarajan, M.D.

The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education
Internal Medicine – PGY-2