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Consider this your quick guide to myth busters for gender equality.  Here you'll find a list of commonly asked questions that we get asked here at WIN HQ, as answered by a few of our WINners ('s now a noun).  If you have any questions that you can't see, drop us a line here!

Yes, you probably are. I am…You can check your gender bias here, using an implicit association test hosted by Harvard University’s Project Implicit.

Gender biases arise from gender schemas, or non-conscious hypotheses about sex differences that inform our expectations and evaluations of men and women (Valian 1998). Men and women hold the same gender schemas and use them to efficiently negotiate a complex social world.

Gender bias is a leading cause of the persistent gender gap in health outcomes, economic and political participation (World Economic Forum, 2016).

Gender schemas lead to measurable biases against women even in apparently rigorous selection processes. For example, Wennerås and Wold (Nature, 1997) assessed the non-blinded peer review process for scientific grants in Sweden, using multiple regression analysis of the relation between applicants’ scientific productivity and the subjectively assigned ‘competence’ score. A female applicant needed the equivalent of three additional first-author publications in Nature to obtain the same score as a male applicant.

Some other examples in academic medicine and healthcare: Sex Differences in Physician Salaries in US Public Medical Schools (JAMA, 2016) Reasons and Remedies for Under-Representation of Women in Medical Leadership Roles (BMJ Open, 2015).

Time to get cracking on those first-author Nature publications I suppose.

Gender bias? I'm not gender biased am I?

Lucy Modra

Before we talk about targets, let's talk about the myth of meritocracy. Opponents of targets often cite that they undermine meritocratic prinicples -  that is, that those who are the most qualified will be selected for a role, everytime, regardless of gender, race, disability and so on. But this assumes at we are somehow able to set aside our biases for the time for the purposes of recruiting for a job, or selecting the faculty of a new course you are designing, which we know to be untrue. If the principles of true mertocracy applied, than we would have more than 20% female intensivists (and no, there is nothing inherent about identifying as female that makes you less suited to a career in intensive care medicine). 


We all have inherent biases  (see above) and unless we account for them, we will not increase diversity within leadership positions, within academia and within the intensive care workforce. In fact, there is evidence that meritocratic processes may actually result in increased biased behaivour. A study by Castilla and Bernard showed that instructing people to select purely based on merit actually exacebated the impact of gender bias. Futhermore, they proposed that individuals are more prone to express prejudiced attitudes when they feel that they have established their moral credentials as a non-prejudiced person. The appeal to merit assumes that merit is an objective criteria rather than a subjective criteria determined by those in power. In this way, seeking merit can promote homogeneity rather than diversity in a workforce.


Actually, we all need to check ourselves. This is where targets come in. Taking gender equity seriously means accepting that there is not a level playing field. This is true for other minority groups also. Targets overtly advantage women to make up for the covert advantages which men have. Of note, there is no evidence that women appointed under either targets or quotas are less competent or perform less effectively than the men they have replaced or women appointed under processes without targets or quotas. 


Why targets?

Too bad the topic of gender pay gap is not as catchy as the ABBA song.  Pay disparity is often bandied around as an issue for women, but what does it all mean and why should we care about it?


The gender pay gap is the difference between men and women’s pay, and it’s based on the average or median difference in pay, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.  In Australia ranks 46 in the Global Gender Gap Index.  The general pay gap is 15.3%, which blows out to 23% for professionals working in health care. Belgium leads the way in lack of disparity at just 3%.


This pay gap has persisted despite more women holding bachelors degrees; 13% in 1996 to 28% in 2016, and also despite the fact that since 1998, more women than men have earned a bachelor degree or higher qualification.


In Intensive Care, the numbers are quite depressing.  As of December 2016, the average male intensive care doctor earns almost $140,000 more than a female intensive care doctor (and yes that’s the correct amount of zeros)


These statistics don't necessarily reflect lack of equal pay per hour, as they don’t correct for full versus part-time or casual employment.  But they do demonstrate an extremely gender-segregated workforce.  In turn, this likely reflects how differently men and women’s careers are affected by carer roles and society expectations.  Women who attempt to negotiate salary and working conditions are more often viewed as “not team players”.


In the long-term, the cumulative effect of the pay gap is a higher rate of poverty amongst women after retirement.  By contrast, gender pay equality has been linked to overall economic performance of a country, and increased productivity, innovation and growth.

If you want to read more, this article is a super start. Let’s hope this rich man’s world turns into one with rich women as well!

Money money money. Is it really a rich man's world?

Tamishta Hensman

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