Female physicians called 'doctor' less than male counterparts, study finds

A recent study sought to quantify anecdotal evidence that men in academic medicine use gender-subordinating language when addressing their female peers by not using professional titles. 

Researchers analyzed archived video of same and mixed-gender speaker introductions at Internal Medicine Grand Rounds held at two locations of an academic medical center. They found female introducers almost always used professional titles when introducing speakers, male or female (97.8 percent for female speakers and 95 percent for male speakers). Male introducers were less formal — they were less likely to use formal titles when introducing speakers of either gender. However, male introducers were significantly less likely to acknowledge a speaker's credentials if she was a woman, the researchers observed. Men introducing other men used professional titles such as "doctor" 72.4 percent of the time. Men introducing women used professional titles just 49.2 percent, according to the study. 

Not acknowledging a female speaker's professional title is problematic because it reinforces gender hierarchy and status, according to the authors. "[W]omen may benefit more from an external conferral of status through a title than men, who are already assumed to have status," the authors wrote. However, women may suffer a greater loss of status when that title is withheld."

"Unequal naming practices may amplify the issues of isolation, marginalization, and professional discomfiture expressed by women faculty in academic medicine," They concluded. "Even if this practice is unintentional, it may reflect subtle yet important inequity." 


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