“You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”– Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, quoting her mother
A letter to readers from our CoFounder, Dr. Archana Shrestha
No matter which Presidential candidate you voted for or which political party you belong to, we women should stand together unified and proud in knowing that for the first time ever, there is a woman going to Washington DC to serve as the Vice President of the our great nation.
The glass ceiling has just shattered. It is truly a historic moment for all American women and makes the possibility of a woman as President of the Unites States one day so much more plausible. (It’s something I’ve dreamt of seeing ever since I was a little girl.) And even more historic is that Senator Kamala Harris is a black woman with a multi-cultural background, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father.
In an interview Kamala Harris quoted her mother as telling her “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.” While Kamala Harris has shattered the glass ceiling for women all the way to the Vice Presidential office of the United States, we can’t allow there to be only the occasional unicorns who make it to positions of power.
And as her mother advised Kamala, the same thing applies to us in medicine. Just because we have a few women doctors in national, regional and organizational leadership positions or in traditionally male dominated fields within medicine, we must be careful not to think women in medicine have arrived.
We must continue to work to create gender equity as here is where we stand today: A significant gender pay gap still exists in medicine where women doctors earn up to 33% less than their male counterparts. Even though women make up 36% of practicing doctors in the country, only 15% of women doctors are department chairs. Among women doctors who are also mothers, 78% felt discrimination. All of this is leading to 48% of women doctors reporting burnout and 22% of female physicians admitted thoughts of suicide this year right before the pandemic hit our shores.
We as a nation cannot afford to lose doctors to professional burnout and suicide especially in the midst of a global pandemic that has been worsening and hitting record numbers through out our country in recent weeks.
Instead, we must make sure that there are more women who come through the ranks. We need to make sure that any woman who is qualified and interested should have leadership opportunities available to them by asking our #HeForShe allies to step up. And for those of us women doctors in leadership positions already, we have a responsibility to assure we are not the last women in those roles.
There certainly is much healing that needs to happen in our country after a polarizing and bitter election cycle, but because of VP-elect Kamala Harris, what I have is hope for the future for women and people of color. Let not Kamala Harris be the ONLY woman to reach such heights, but the first of many.
As women, let’s come together and work together in overcoming the pandemic, safely getting our children back to school and also getting people back to work and the economy back on track. I’m confident that if we women unify in supporting, uplifting and empowering one another, we can change the course of history at this pivotal moment in our country.
To Uplifting One Another,
Co-Founder, Women in White Coats
Archana Shrestha, MD is a physician, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur in Chicago. She is the Cofounder of Women in White Coats and a coauthor of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” book series. Learn more about her by going to MightyMomMD.com . She can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD