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California study: Female docs face maternity leave discrimination

Being a doctor can be a pretty enviable vocation. It comes with the respect of your community, advanced education and higher than average incomes, but as it turns out, being a doctor can still be a challenging place for a woman. Many women still face institutional discrimination in this profession when it comes to breastfeeding, maternity leave and other women's issues, as a recent study from the University of California, San Francisco illustrates. 

A popular social media group sparked the study, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, reporting that four out of five physician mothers say they experience workplace discrimination. The active social media community has over 65,000 members. The group forms a support network for the female docs and, being such a large pool, attracted the attention of researchers. 

The women reported experiencing maternal discrimination, defined as discrimination based on pregnancy, maternity leave or breastfeeding. This maternal discrimination was disclosed by the doctors as being disrespected by nursing or support staff, reported exclusion from executive decision making and claims of lesser pay. Maternal discrimination also seems to go hand in hand with burnout; nearly half of doctors reporting maternal discrimination also reported burnout. 

This University of California study may not surprise women who work hard to balance life and career. The law does protect women against discrimination based on maternity leave or other accommodations. Female employees who feel that they may be experiencing maternal discrimination at work may wish to consult with a lawyer to review their options for recompense of any damages.

Source: NPR, "Doctors Who Are Moms Say They Face Discrimination At Work", Alexandra Sowa, May 15, 2017

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