15 tips for working with women


I work in a male-dominated field. As a cardiac anesthesiologist, I work with mostly male cardiac surgeons in a department where the majority of my fellow anesthesiologists are male. I work with some fantastic male colleagues. They are caring, skilled doctors, and I consider many of them to be friends.

While most of them know how to handle emergencies, trauma and difficult work situations, many times they clam up when we talk about women’s issues.

Since I have started to blog about women in medicine, some of these men hint at the topic. Recently I received a call from a fantastic male colleague of mine who practices at another institution and who has been following my work. He and I have worked together nationally on projects, and I thought he was calling me about a meeting we are leading. He told me he was simply calling to tell me “bravo!”

I sat in my office and felt such appreciate for this man. He went out of his way to thank me for speaking for women in health care. He told me his wife is a doctor and he is raising daughters, and several of the physicians he leads are women. He told me how much he appreciates my voice. His encouragement was just what I needed.

I have had several great conversations with men who want to talk about how they treat their female colleagues, but like any social discussion that can be difficult to navigate …

(Insert dodging land mines.)

As I reflect on men who value me as an equal partner, I’ve come up with some survival tips for the rest of you. Please realize I am one woman and I certainly don’t represent us all. We are all very different and, like all humans, our greatest gift is that we are unique and complex.

I know, I know. I can hear the eye rolls and the snickers now. Haha!

1. Please call us by our names — Dr. Last Name or Ms. Last Name. We worked hard to get where we are. ”Dear,” “honey,” “babes” and “sweetie” are for our significant others. Not our colleagues.

2. Please don’t call us “girls.” Just as you are a man and not a boy, we are women.

3. If you think we can help you, ask us. We appreciate when our expertise is recognized.

4. If you need a leader, ask us. We are capable.

5. Please let us choose whether we take the job or not. Don’t skip us for promotions because you think we have “too much on our plate.” Let us decide what we can and cannot take on.

6. When we speak, let us. Don’t interrupt us, cut us off, or ignore us in meetings.

7. When we ask for something we deserve, don’t label us as difficult. Realize this likely means we are “all in.”

8. Skip the sexually inappropriate jokes. They don’t impress us.

9. When we look like we are struggling with something personally, ask us. We are real people, just like you. We know how to control our emotions. Don’t be afraid.

10. When we confront or have a critical conversation with someone, don’t label us as “emotional” or “confrontational.” It was likely justified and well thought out, just like the conversations you have.

11. If we offend you, tell us. We won’t break. We want to improve ourselves, just like you do.

12. When we disagree with you, don’t chalk it up to hormones. Remember we are just as educated and experienced as you, and our disagreement is not personal. Assume positive intent.

13. If you think we deserve an award, nominate us. You make up 80 percent of the committees and your vote counts.

14. Many of us are working to provide for our families, just like you. Please respect this.

15. Realize that we are not your secretary or your “work wife.” We are your partners.

16. If you make a mess, please clean it up. Realize that being women does not qualify us to clean up after you.

17. When we have a great idea, don’t steal it. Don’t repeat it and claim it as your own.

18. If you hear someone stereotyping us, please speak up. We need you to change the worldview of women in the workplace. Your voice is great.

Thank you to those of you who defend us.

Thank you to those of you who mentor us.

Thank you to those of you who listen to us.

Thank you to those of you who sponsor us.

Thank you to those of you who treat us as equal.

We see it, we appreciate it, and you are helping to change our future.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, but I hope it starts a dialogue that will perhaps open doors to communication between you and your colleagues.

We are a team, and acknowledging our individual differences and discussing them strengthens our teams.

Strong teams save lives. Let’s build them.

Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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