But, there is hope, particularly within the Society of Hospital Medicine, Dr. Arora and Dr. Farnan wrote. The organization has seen an increase in female leadership – including its president-elect Nasim Afsar, MD, MBA, SFHM – and a board of directors that is split evenly between men and women. Mentorship of junior women is also on the rise, which allows opportunities for senior female physicians to teach younger women how to better negotiate and advocate for themselves.
“I think it has to come from both sides. Leadership does need to recognize that women may be less aggressive in their negotiating skills,” said Dr. Farnan. “But I think there also needs to be some recognition by women that it is okay to ask for more money.”
But it isn’t all about money, she said. “It can be negotiating for anything important in career development, career opportunities, research opportunities.” This also extends to schedule flexibility, training and more.
Leadership in hospitalist groups can help, Dr. Arora and Dr. Farnan wrote in their Annals article, by providing schedule flexibility, support for training, and structured on-boarding for new faculty. Citing efforts in other specialties such as cardiology and general surgery, female hospitalists may benefit from negotiation skills training, structured mentorship, and education around personal and professional development.
However, both physicians recognize the challenges of implicit bias and stereotype threat that may confront many women. For example, women who exert more stereotypically “male” traits such as assertiveness and confidence may face a “harsh likability penalty because they are going against gender norms,” said Dr. Arora.