The other day I saw a tweet from United Nations about the gap in gender pay parity. “Worldover……women across professions, earn 20 to 30% less than men.”
It has been a week and I just cannot get the figures out of my system. I googled the figures for pay parity in healthcare and there were no surprises there. Women in medicine can earn upto 37% lesser than their male colleagues.
Over the years, I have trained many young surgeons, while most of them were men, there were some young ladies as well. I will not talk about myself yet. That’s for later.
Well, all trainee surgeons are different but when I think hard, there were a few basic traits that seperated male trainees from the ladies. I may be biased, but the ladies were in general more sincere, more loyal, more punctual, more empathetic and better workers. The boys weren’t too bad either but the girls certainly scored over them. The girls were also more inclined to follow the rule book and accept dissent more wilfully. When it came to surgeries, boys were more proactive in asking the bosses to allow them to operate. And the ladies… well they patiently waited their turn. They would believe that they would be fairly rewarded for their sincere and hard work. They were less forthcoming and certainly not as demanding as the boys. Well, surgery is one branch where the more hands-on you get, the better you become. No guesses here about who would eventually turn out to be more surgically skilled. Women would either get disgruntled with the system and leave or ended up spending much longer time to attain the same skills as men. And mind you this was not because they were bad surgeons, it was mainly because they never would ask!
Women hesitate to ask or assert. They rarely question when others make their decisions for them. They do not negotiate and tend to give in easily. Hence a lady doctor who may be more capable than her male colleagues may actually end up with much lesser on her plate.
Why do women do this? Taking my own example, I am uncomfortable around money. I tend to avoid financial discussions. I am happy if someone else does those on my behalf. In my entire career I have given more value to work ethics and skill development than to money. These traits are not limited to me alone, I am confident that a lot of women will identify with me. Some of us actually take pride in our ignorance about financial issues and no wonder the gap in gender pay parity is ever increasing. The real issue here is that women are nurturers by nature. We tend to derive our value from being needed and not by being rewarded.
While many times women are ignorant about what their colleagues are taking home, organizations are also not transparent about pay scales between employees. It is totally possible that the woman employee may be the most capable, appreciated or honoured in the workplace but her take home salary may not be at par with her counterparts. Would she be aware of this disparity? Probably yes or may be not. Would she go back to the boss’s office to renegotiate? I think not.
I have also come across a few lady doctors who were more assertive and did not hesitate to call a spade as a spade. What do we think about them? Honest confession, at times I have myself labelled those women as pushy or bossy! Too forthcoming… is what I would think of them! Would I think the same way about a male colleague with similar traits? Probably not. This is where the problem lies. Even women themselves dont think kindly about other women who are more assertive. Somewhere we like being the underdog!
Ofcourse, we need better work place policies, we need more understanding bosses, we need to empower women. But most of all what we need to change is, ourselves. We need to introspect and take charge. We have to learn to value ourselves before we expect others to value us. We need to stop cringing from financial discussions and have to understand that money is a way to value our expertise. By accepting less, we grossly undervalue ourselves. The gap in gender pay parity will not fill in the near future but we need to start somewhere and that place is within us. Because ultimately we need to be the change that we want to see in the world.