Sunday, 5 June 2016

A Stormy Day

I was at a hospital clinic a few weeks back, discussing my crazy anaemia with the doc. He was a good looking, articulate man who held my hand and turned up the charm when he noted that I have a rare disease and would I mind acting as an exam subject for upcoming specialist exams?
The prospect of losing an entire Sunday morning to multiple neuro exams barely passed my mind as I agreed just a tad breathlessly.
Today was the day. Sydney was in the middle of an enormous storm and rain was sheeting the yard as I headed out to the cab which had been sent for me. The driver dodged bits of tree on empty early roads.

So, after changing into a hospital gown and a considerable wait for rain delays, two examiners came to see me and then four examinees came one by one. The two male candidates were both confident and both passed. One woman seemed to me to do well but ultimately failed and the other, well it was a train wreck really. She stumbled once and persevered, at the next hiccup she looked disappointed, at the next her face registered that she was going to fail. From that point she crumpled visibly and I doubt she could have got anything right no matter how well she might have known her stuff.

I had to wonder about the huge gap between the genders that was visible in this case. Were the men better prepared? Did they happen to have better luck? Were the women held back by poor preparation? Lack of confidence? or compromised by family responsibilities?

With a sample size of four, I can't draw any conclusions whatsoever but I have to say that I thought I saw the glass ceiling in a way I never have before.


  1. Interesting observations, but I think it would take a much larger sample to draw any conclusions. Still it is very interesting!

  2. Interesting indeed.
    Anne is right, but I am still wondering. And reports of behaviour at both medical schools and at hospitals while the 'students' are interning have been more than a little scary.
    What a generous use of your time on a rainy Sunday. Thank you.

  3. Anne,
    I wouldn't have thought about it until recently. My daughter made the comment that the men in her classes always act as though they can't be wrong but the women are never sure. I know that confidence and knowledge are different but for anyone who is busy second guessing themselves, it must be hard to draw from memory

  4. EC
    I take no credit, he charmed me!

    and yes, I'm not sure that medicine is what you might call a progressive area to study/ work in

  5. After literally being poked and prodded by hundreds of doctors and med students I prefer female doctors absolutely. The last example giver her a couple of years of working in a practice and i assure you there will only be a glass ceiling on the amount of money she makes when compared to her male counterparts.

  6. There could be any number of reasons why the ladies failed. In any case, you had an interesting day!

  7. I suspect gender expectations are heavily involved. Men expect themselves to do well and are expected to do well by others, while expectations of women are less positive. Somehow expectations of women have to be raised to the same level as men's, but achieving that against such a long history of gender stereotypes is not easy.

    I was once examined by a group of medical students for a possible diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome (it turned out I didn't have it). They all thoroughly checked me out and I must say I've never had such a detailed medical examination in my life!

  8. I just read a post on the changing work roles of women versus men, and I left a comment that concerned women as doctors:

  9. “I prefer female doctors absolutely. The last example giver her a couple of years of working in a practice and i assure you there will only be a glass ceiling on the amount of money she makes when compared to her male counterparts.”

    This is from Science Daily: “In a survey of hospital medical physicians across the United States, women made nearly $15,000 less than their male counterparts, with a portion of this disparity explained by female doctors' tendency to prioritize collegiality and control over personal time, rather than substantial pay. The figure was determined after controlling for a number of factors, including age, geography, specialty, and amount and type of clinical work.”

    In other words, the women made less partly because they put less value on making more. Another factor is that they tend toward pediatrics, and pediatrics is not a high-paying field. As for which gender makes better doctors, I came to the opposite conclusion of you, although whether a doctor is a male or female, their odds of them being any good are still under 50% in my view, which is the reason that if I find a doctor I like, I stick to them like glue no matter their gender. Still, of the doctors whom I truly came to despise as being either incompetent or simply not giving a rip, the women dominated.

  10. Mark,
    what is it that you like about female doctors? or what dont you like about the men?

  11. nick,
    you have the typical shape of a marfans person.

    if i had met one or two candidates i wouldnt have associated their success or otherwise with gender but in this case it seemed such a distinct line. I do think girls learn to doubt themselves more than boys

  12. “Mark, what is it that you like about female doctors?”

    When women started going into medicine in numbers the belief was that they would be more compassionate, listen better, take more time with their patients, be stronger advocates for their patients, treat the whole person and not just the disease, and just generally humanize medical care. Now, that they’re going into medicine in large numbers and medical care has only gotten worse in terms of its human component, it seems that the problem was not gender-based but system-based. Still, Mark's experience is female doctors are better doctors, and I've no doubt but what that's true for him, but I don't believe it's representative because my experience has been mixed with three of the worst four doctors I ever had been female.

  13. Snow,
    I haven't really had a lot to do with doctors. My worst experience was with a woman but I wouldn't draw any conclusions from that.
    I have to agree with you that the system probably has the potential to make doctors tired, jaded, rushed and generally poor at patient care.

  14. The men may have had more time to study. They also may have had male doctors who gave them special tutelage so they would be successful. Maybe the women did not seek out the extra help. Maybe they were denied it. Men like to bluff women. Maybe they did.

    I was at a Mensa convention and some of us, all strangers, decided to go out to eat together. No matter what esoteric subject the men chose, I could keep up with them. They commented on my mental prowess. I think they thought I had probably never heard of Buckminster Fuller or Bucky balls. I actually knew a few facts about that subject that some of them did not. In my opinion, they wanted me to bow to their intelligence, hopefully pumping up their ego at the expense of draining mine.

  15. "In my opinion, they wanted me to bow to their intelligence, hopefully pumping up their ego at the expense of draining mine."

    You’re right, of course. Men seek to awe women while outshining other men, and they only succeed in looking like aggressive, unattentive, assholes in the process. But let’s not criticize men without remembering that women have their own problems. For instance, why in god’s name would any woman wear something as unhealthy, injury prone, and downright stupid-looking as high heels? Is it to entice men or to outshine other women? Then there’s makeup. My own sister keeps her eyebrows so high above where they should be that she goes around with a look of being constantly surprised. And not to forget Hillary Clinton, who tries to project the imagined strength of a man by constantly shouting, something that just makes her seem fake and contrived. Yes, both genders have issues and the way they try to look strong, smart, beautiful, or whatever, often makes them look just the opposite. I’ve learned that the best way I can avoid embarrassing myself is to simply keep my mouth shut, but that’s a very hard thing to do.

  16. Women are conditioned from the moment they leave the womb that they are not as capable as men in certain subjects, like maths and science. By the time they get to school even the teachers believe the same thing, as they've been conditioned too. It's not surprising then that after years of conditioning that often men are better at these subjects.


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