It may seem like a trivial detail, but it turns out that women are often not introduced the same way as their male peers — and that can impact their stature in the medical community.
At least, that’s the conclusion from research by several female doctors who noticed that that they were often being referred by their first name, while their male colleagues were introduced with a “Dr.” in front of their last names.
The team examined videos of 321 speaker introductions at 124 internal medicine grand rounds in 2012 at Mayo Clinic facilities. They found that male speakers were given a professional title 72 percent of the time, while female doctors received the same treatment 49 percent of the time.
The gender of the person giving the introduction also mattered. Females used titles for both men and women 96 percent of the time, while men extended the same treatment in 66 percent of their introductions.
The researchers say this unequal distinction can send peers a subtextual message that female presenters are less worthy than their male counterparts. It can also throw female speakers off their game.
“Grand rounds is kind of a high-stakes event that is the premier educational venue at academic medical centers,” one of the researchers explained to The Washington Post. “As a speaker, you’ve spent hours preparing for it, may be a little nervous in front of the podium, ready as an expert, and then somebody says, ‘Here’s Sharonne.’ You’re immediately put off a bit and may not be at your best performance.”
A blog posted on GenderAvenger by three of the study’s authors has received a plethora of responses from other female doctors praising the study and saying they’ve had the same experience numerous times.
Other commenters were more skeptical. One noted that the study’s findings might be presented in a way that is too simplistic.
“The incidence of speakers being referred to as ‘Doctor X’ does not take into account the seniority of the speaker being introduced,” the commenter posted. “It is almost undoubtedly the case that there are more senior male doctors than senior female doctors. Furthermore, it is likely the case that the chances of a man (and like a woman) introducing someone informally rises if that person is in their peer group.”
But one professor interviewed by The Washington Post said that the issue goes beyond introductions and that it’s “the general attitude within medicine that drives these differences is probably what’s most important.”