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Karin Lillis

Karin Lillis is managing editor of EndoNurse magazine and a contributing writer for Infection Control Today. She has more than 20 years of experience in health, news and business publishing-from community-based daily newspapers to clinical nursing and other magazines. She graduated from DeSales University with a degree in English/Communications.

Gender Prejudice in the Work Place

Posted in Blogs, Industry Issues

Our esteemed contributor, gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond, wrote a particularly interesting article for EndoNurse this spring. In the article, "Gender in the Endo Bay," she tackles the topic of how women treat each other in the work place, and writes that female nurses don't give her with as much respect as they give male doctors.

She said that she shows interest in the lives of her female nurses, respects them, and tries to be the best colleague she can be, and yet, when male doctors walk in, she feels that the nurses divert all attention―and respect―toward them.

Does that ever happen to you? For instance, let's say you're a female nurse and you're talking with another female nurse. You're each making eye contact, practicing active listening in other ways too, such as nodding, asking follow-up questions, basically, showing respect. Then, when a male nurse or doctor walks in, does your female colleague pay all her attention to him and leave you in the dust? Has this ever happened to you outside of work?  

I've spent a lot of time discussing gender issues with my friends and other people over the years, and the consensus from my little social studies is that this type of prejudice occurs frequently, and across professions. Does it happen all the time? No, but I believe that women do have a tendency to ignore each other in front of men, to defer to men, to laugh more loudly at men's jokes. Why?

Dr. Raymond has some sound theories on this. I'll leave those to you to discover when you read her article. I have some theories too. Since men in this world have far more power than women (in every nation, in nearly every culture, if not all cultures), women learn early that "man" equals "power." "Man" equals "decision maker." People pay more attention to power sources and decision makers. And even though Patricia Raymond has more power than nurses, women aren't used to looking at her as a power source. She is, after all, a woman, and women aren't raised to be in control. How many female presidents have we had?

I doubt that anyone has this internal conversation when dealing with Dr. Raymond, but our subconscious has a huge affect on our actions, and so does our worldview. People may see a woman in power as an anomaly, something that seems off, but they may not even realize they think this way. And so, when the man walks in, they may recognize what they consider legitimate, natural authority, and flock to it.

And where's this habit leave Patricia, and where does it leave sisterhood?

Women aren't perfect. Men aren't evil. I prefer some men's company over some women's company, but in general, I'd love to see women support each other more. Let's laugh at each other's jokes, let's not ditch each other just because a man walks in. And men, you can support us too. You can look us in the eyes when we're talking, instead of at the floor or our chest, and not boom over us, interrupting with your louder, more powerful voices. For the women and men who show respect to the women who deserve it, thank you.

To read Dr. Raymond's article, click here.


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