By Joanna Lee
If you ask my colleagues, I’m hilarious. My award-winning joke this week was, “Keeping my eyes on the cloud, just like Elon Musk,” while I point at a cloud of brine shrimp. Given that research suggests a good sense of humor is linked to higher social status, sexual success, and intelligence, one might expect me to be an incredibly popular genius. However, according to a new study, this might not be the case for everyone.
By Karlyn Q.
It’s 2019 and women have been handed another hurdle to jump over when it comes to their healthcare. Lawmakers continue to work to abolish access to federal and state-funded reproductive health services all while inhibiting safe abortion care. But this is just one of the many barriers to quality healthcare that women continue to face.
Unconscious gender bias, which refers to a subconscious assessment based on gender that influences one's actions and feelings, remains a major obstacle to women’s healthcare, but only until recently have certain health inequalities, like The Gender Pain Gap, become a part of the conversation. Too often, women experience patient dismissal and misdiagnoses due to gender disparities in pain treatment.
This piece serves as an overview of what precisely the Gender Pain Gap is, the negative impact it has on women obtaining the best possible health outcomes, and how to overcome this phenomenon.
The Gender Pain Gap Defined
The Gender Pain Gap refers to the bias against women as it pertains to the treatment of pain, which stems from a landmark study performed at Maryland University called “The Girl Who Cried Pain.” Researchers found that women often experience dismissal of their medical concerns, leading to misdiagnosis, incorrect medicine dosages, delayed treatment, and general feelings of neglect. The exact reason for how the Gender Pain Gap came to be is challenging to pin down, but various studies allude to sexism, a lack of medical research on women, and gender-related differences in the experiences of pain.
Causes Of The Gender Pain Gap
Sexism significantly affects women’s ability to receive appropriate care for pain in many facets. Not only do healthcare providers take longer to address women’s pain, but they are also more likely to misdiagnose women’s pain as psychogenic or emotional. Consequently, women are more likely to be given sedatives instead of pain-relieving drugs which can lead to a delay in accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Furthering the gender divide in healthcare is the lack of knowledge surrounding women and the pain they experience, which could possibly stem from the exclusion of women in medical research. Approximately 70% of those who suffer from chronic pain are women and yet 80% of pain studies are conducted using male mice or human men.
In fact, a Caucasian male weighing 154 pounds standing at 5 feet and 6 inches tall has long been the standard body type for studying human anatomy and drawing medical test conclusions. However, hormones, as well as brain function, play a significant role in how women’s experiences with pain differ from men’s, thus indicating that the standard male body is no longer a suitable universal standard for research and more women and female animal models need to be included in these types of studies.
Impacts And Significance Of The Gender Pain Gap
The result of gender biases in our medical system can have severe and sometimes fatal repercussions. For instance, women are 50% more likely to receive the wrong diagnosis after a heart attack compared to men, leading to an increased risk of death. The very thought seems inconceivable considering heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.
Heart attacks are just one example of diagnostic errors in women. On average, it takes approximately nine years and four doctors for women to receive a correct endometriosis diagnosis – a notably painful condition where tissue that typically lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. Endometriosis symptoms are not visible, so women who are suffering, once again, have their pain dismissed and are not appropriately treated. In cases where women are given a correct endometriosis diagnosis, they often postpone seeking help because “they themselves viewed their agonizing period pain as normal,” according to a discussion with Vice and Abby Norman, author of Ask Me About My Uterus. Like any other condition, an incorrect diagnosis can lead to delayed treatment and a negative impact on a woman’s quality of life.
Overturning The Gender Pain Gap
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health made a step toward healthcare equality by introducing a policy that requires medical investigators to account for sex as a biological variable during research. Even with this small step, there is still a real need for increased education and awareness surrounding biological differences in pain, as well as a need for more guidance for women whose pain isn’t being taken seriously.
Women who continue to endure medical dismissal and misdiagnoses may learn to take on an active role in their own disease management. By learning how to advocate for themselves, empowered patients trust their body and use their instincts to make informed decisions about their healthcare. This could look like coming to appointments with a list of questions, asking for clarification when needed or opting to find a second opinion.
It can also mean becoming a smart healthcare consumer by utilizing new and upcoming technological services in the healthcare space such as telemedicine. Telemedicine can offer clinical services without an in-person visit and has many benefits such as reducing administrative mistakes and allowing patients access to care on their own terms. Companies like hers, a telemedicine company focusing on women's health needs, was created due to the fact that women don't receive the same attention in the healthcare system as men. By providing women with direct, immediate access to trusted physicians and prescription solutions for sexual wellness, skin care, and hair loss, hers is “putting the power back in the hands of women” in a broken healthcare system, as told by co-founder and brand team lead, Hilary Coles. To learn more about their mission to create a more inclusive healthcare space for women, check out hers’ Twitter account as they use their platforms to increase awareness around women’s healthcare issues and provide valuable information and resources.
By Robbin Koenig
Juliet Chin Hart, Founder, Hart & Chin Associates, LLC
Juliet Chin Hart was a panelist for the Alternate Careers workshop at the 2019 Scientista Symposium. She was a researcher in biopsychology and then transitioned to working for assorted biotech and big pharma organizations.
Applying her knowledge of science-based industries, as well as strategic business management, Hart founded Hart & Chin Associates, LLC, a niche consulting firm, that also offers workshops and coaching for organizations involved in various scientific disciplines. The mission is to cultivate scientists’ leadership skills, interpersonal skills, and communication. Hart fills in the gaps not covered in graduate school programs that enable scientists to become effective leaders at their institutions and in their scientific specialization.
In the following question and answer interchange, Juliet Chin Hart explains her rationale for developing methods to improve management styles and science personnel satisfaction.
Q: What motivated you to start the company and what were the challenges?
A: After working in academia, biotech, and pharma with other scientists, I realized there was a need for more professional development resources that resonated with the scientist and is relevant in their work environments. So, I decided to start a company focused specifically on scientists and their organizations. It is a specialized area of work, so getting awareness about what I do is the hardest part.
Q: What niche do you think it will fill?
A: My intention is to help scientists at all stages of their careers. Right now, training for scientists typically is focused on developing the technical knowledge and skills specifically needed for their field. Adding essential basics, such as interpersonal and communication skills training with examples from the scientists’ worlds, will make it easier for them to adapt and transition in their careers.
Q: Are there any soft skills that you address that are unique to the scientific community?
A: Everyone needs soft skills, but leadership and management training are important for scientists to be successful in any aspect of their career growth to increase their influence in whatever role they are in or striving to attain. On top of that, cultural adaptability training is very important. We tend to ignore the fact that scientists work in very culturally diverse environments and it can be difficult, but at the same time very rewarding. The training allows us to understand ourselves and others better so that we can maximize our potential.
Q: What are the most popular workshops? How did you decide what components to include in your curriculum?
Right now, I have an emotional intelligence workshop that is geared towards working with your PI/manager and a cultural adaptability workshop that deeply resonates with people. Currently, I am rolling out a comprehensive leadership program that includes coaching.
Like any experiment, I test to see if my hypothesis is correct and retest to see if the training produces the expected results.
Q: What methods do you use to train scientists to become better leaders? Do you use a customized approach depending on the client's needs or scientific field?
A: I am developing methods and approaches that are more intuitive for the way scientists think. For example, when you ask a scientist what values are important to them it feels very arbitrary. Through my training, I ask them to collect their own data to help remove some of that arbitrary feeling to have them understand what is important to them and why. This has been very enlightening for participants.
Every customer at this point is looking for something different. The idea of a leadership consultant that focuses on scientists and their organizations is a resource that they usually haven't considered as available - so it takes some time to figure out what problem should be addressed.
Q: What suggestions do you have for scientists who would like to transition into consulting or for students who have completed academic studies and would like to pursue this occupation?
A: There are different routes that you can take. You can apply to consulting firms and if you fit the profile that they are looking for, then you are brought in for a training period to see if you will fit in the culture of the company. Another route to consulting is to gain enough experience in a certain area of work to be considered an expert and then provide advice to organizations.
About the Author
By Aubrey Patterson
By Emily Davidson
Lab-grown meat, also known as cultured meat or clean meat, is beginning to transform our global food system. This revolutionary technology takes animal cells and cultivates them outside of the animal. Removing the requirements of raising and processing animals aims to bring the consumer a safe, high-quality meat while also solving problems of environmental degradation, global poverty, animal welfare, and human health.
So what experience is required to land a job in a research sector so sparkling new it depends on constantly evolving techniques and skillsets? I had the opportunity to ask these and other questions during an interview with Rachel Valenzuela, cell line engineer at Memphis Meats, a company leading the innovation of cultured meat. Rachel spoke about what it’s like to work in the food tech industry and her advice for future women scientists:
By Robbin Koenig
You are building a website for your lab, new start-up, a personal CV for prospective employers/graduate school, or to educate the public about your passion for specific issues in science. Perhaps, you are considering creating a digital product. How do you get started?
By Poornima Peiris
Sara Laschever, the keynote speaker at this year’s Scientista Symposium, gave Scientistas the facts behind the art of negotiating and why men always have an upper hand when it comes to self-advocacy.
By Anna Groves
It's me. Actually, it's the research.
I have known I would leave academia since Monday, February 25, 2013. It was my first year of grad school. A professor in my department’s wife had had a baby the day before, on Sunday. On Monday he came into work like it was a normal day.
By Julie Charbonnier
By Robbin Koenig
Dr. Shruti Naik is an immunologist and postdoctorate researcher at the Fuchs lab at Rockefeller University. She is one of the five recipients of the 2016 L’Oreal USA for Women in Science Fellowship. As a major advocate for women in STEM careers, Dr. Naik was a featured speaker at the 2017 Scientista Symposium.
Dr. Naik’s work focuses on combating inflammatory skin disorders, such as psoriasis and eczema, with adult stem cell treatments. Her research will ultimately contribute to a new approach for treatment. She describes her research in the following question and answer dialog.
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