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TTUHSC Faculty Develops Policy Recommendations to Support Women in Medicine

Women in medicine often make less money and hold fewer leadership positions than men in medicine.

“The situation is even worse in emergency medicine programs,” says Sue Watts, Ph.D., an associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso). “Just one-third of emergency medicine faculty are women and nearly 75 percent of them have the lowest academic ranks.”

Studies have shown that female faculty members in emergency medicine make 10 to 13 percent less than their male counterparts, and a 2006 report found that only 7.5 percent of emergency medicine departments were chaired by women.

To address these barriers, Watts recently teamed up with a group of women who hold leadership positions in emergency medicine across the country to promote workplace environments that support women. The group created specific guidelines for organizations and institutions to consider implementing in their emergency medicine departments.

Their recommendations, published this month in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, are as follows:

  • “Employers should implement policies and practices aimed at ensuring unbiased recruitment and hiring and parity in advancement and compensation among employees.
  • Employers should promote and support networking and mentorship opportunities for their women physicians.
  • Employers should strive to implement family-supportive practices that further the professional advancement and retention of employees who have childcare and other dependent care responsibilities.
  • Employers should seek to create a culture in which family-supportive policies are visible and easily accessible, and are used without fear of penalty or stigma. This culture should be evident at the time of recruitment.
  • Employers should adopt policies to support physicians during significant life events (e.g., pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and major medical illness).
  • The needs of pregnant and postpartum women should be supported with flexible scheduling options and adequate lactation facilities.”

The team’s recommendations have been met with considerable endorsement thus far. The policies were quickly adopted by the boards of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

“Even though these guidelines focus on emergency medicine, the best practices could be applied to any other specialty, or adopted as institutional policies,” Watts says.

She hopes the recommendations will impact the medical community and improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in medicine throughout the U.S.

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