Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Skirting The Issue...

By Dr. Linda Regan

I have spent many years of my life in opposition, and I rather like the role."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Asking, The Right Questions...

Recently, a friend of mine recommended that I read a book titled, Women Don’t Ask, written by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. I decided to look it up and came across the following quote:

“When Linda Babcock asked why so many male graduate students were teaching their own courses and most female students were assigned as assistants, her dean said: "More men ask. The women just don't ask."
It turns out that whether they want higher salaries or more help at home, women often find it hard to ask. Sometimes they don't know that change is possible--they don't know that they can ask. Sometimes they fear that asking may damage a relationship. And sometimes they don't ask because they've learned that society can react badly to women asserting their own needs and desires.

This quote struck close to home, as I too feel a certain discomfort when faced with approaching a negotiation. I simply believed that everyone felt like this. . and maybe they do. Maybe the difference only lies in the follow through, in that men will pursue the goal despite their discomfort.

What I do know is that a different friend of mine, also an emergency physician, recently told me that she finally approached her Chairman to ask for a raise. She told me how finally, after what seemed like an agonizing time, she scheduled an appointment, mustered up her courage and asked. Her chairman responded with the following:

“I was waiting to see how long it would take you to ask for more money.”
Apparently, he too, believed she should be making more money, but instead of commending her for her work and giving her a raise, he waited for her to come and ask for it!

Is this wrong? I suppose if I were a Chairman, I might do the same. Save some money by waiting for those poor hardworking people to realize they are worth more than what I am giving them. In the time in takes them to ask, I can be using that money for something else. The unfortunate part of the equation for women is that a lot of the time, it seems we don’t ask.

The business of medicine is just that - a business - and business is now and always has been a world that is dominated and shaped by men. Now don’t get me wrong, I like men. I don’t think they are trying to keep us women down! But until the women following the rules (and possibly the men who are making them) realize that the standard rules are not necessarily innate for the personality of women, we can never approach a world where women are represented in equal numbers, and more importantly with equal numbers in their bank account!

Thanks for reading!

Linda Regan, M.D. is an Attending physician at NYU/Bellevue Hospital and author of the blog column, Skirting the Issue, which discusses issues facing women in the field of medicine. She may be contacted at:

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