The fight to instil gender equality in orthopedic medicine field

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This is 2019. We live in an age where we have worked very hard to right the gender gaps in professional settings (there is also the ongoing battle to right the ship for race biases and discrimination in the workplace, but that is a whole other topic to discuss another time). Female orthopedic surgeons have faced many gender biases and discriminations throughout their careers, but what is especially alarming is that this is one of the last remaining (and most severely impacted) career fields where this bias still exists today. There is an incredibly disrespectful and unfortunately quite common instance where female orthopedic surgeons are often approached as if they are nurses or assistants, rather than the specified surgeons they are. Now, of course, there is nothing in the world wrong with being a nurse or a medical assistant (any job in medicine is a great one), but when you have the knowledge and the instance to work for and then successfully become an orthopedic surgeon, and your professionalism is constantly doubted or disregarded entirely, it gets a little old.

Working in an orthopedic clinic is always a prestigious career trajectory, but for female professionals looking to build a career in orthopedic medicine, it can be a tumultuous journey as well. It is shockingly common for a female orthopedic surgeon to be discriminated against not only by male professionals in the field, but also by patients. This is alarming because there is an obvious disconnect between the understanding and general awareness that females not only are capable of all the same professional accomplishments and trajectories, but they in fact make up more than half (56%, in fact) of students who turn their passion for orthopedic medicine into their career. Women have always worked in this career field, but they are still today being faced with gender biases and discriminations that make it seem as though they are less worthy somehow of the same respect, admiration, value, and income as their male counterparts. How is this possible, and how has it been allowed to continue?

career in orthopedics (or any other area of medicine, really) is one that does not come easily by any means. But for women, getting to the point of becoming an orthopedic surgeon is not when it becomes easier. While it is of course a rewarding career, it is also one where female professionals are paid roughly $41,000 less than their male counterparts (around $38,000 difference among oncologists and blood specialists, around $36,000 difference among obstetrician-gynaecologists, and roughly $34,000 among cardiologists). This is quite obviously a disgustingly drastic pay gap, and it is made even more difficult to swallow when one realises that there is only one branch of orthopedics where women are paid more than men; in radiology, female radiologists are paid on average $2,000 more than that of male radiologists). To be frank, considering the blatant importance of a field like orthopedic medicine, it would make sense that all capable and passionate professionals, regardless of their gender, be given the same opportunities – in every sense of the word.

But this is not the case. How, in 2019, are we living in a world where gender or race biases and discrimination are even an issue, let alone in some of the most important industries in all the world? To discredit and hold back the professional accomplishments of a great orthopedic professional, purely because of their gender (or their race) is to disadvantage the line of work altogether. Orthopedic medicine is a field that could always use more dedicated professionals to help drive it forward, be great innovators, help people, and save lives, and it is about time that was duly noted and impressed upon. While of course this is an overdue motion, it is always better to be late than to never arrive, as they say. And with more female orthopedic surgeons coming out with their stories, the awareness of the issue is growing every time, giving rise to a promising kind of hope that could spell the end of the gender gap in this important line of work, and this whole industry.

Gender and race biases and discriminations are unfortunately not something that the world is unfamiliar with. However, as time has gone on, there has gradually been more and more movements towards the elimination of these unhealthy, unfair, and frankly disturbing (to say the least). In most industries and career trajectories, there have been big moves towards stabilising and balancing the gender (and race) gaps, but in many branches of medicine, this is not the face. In the case of orthopedic medicine, for example, there is what is perhaps the single largest gender bias in all of medicine. Female orthopedic surgeons and the likes have always contended with a distinctive pay gap between themselves and their male counterparts, as well as gender discrimination from all angles. While there is a growing awareness to the issue, there is still a long way to go. But, as the saying goes, it is better late than never.

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