Saturday Morning Rounds November 21st, 2020 - On COVID & Caretaking

Posted by BossB, MD on November 21, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds

A weekly round-up of career & negotiation content for women physicians


What got our attention

We hesitated to share this post because, honestly, who needs more bad news in the shitstorm of bad news (that tends to disproportionately harm women & POC) that is 2020?
But, it's important and we think we can help, so here goes.
The gist of it is this, women are publishing A LOT less than men during COVID, especially women in medicine
"In a new analysis published Sept. 17, researchers from the University of Texas analyzed preprints of papers in medRxiv and bioRxiv—two databases that curate preprints of medical scientific papers and biological scientific papers, respectively—and found that the proportion of papers with female authors had declined in both during the pandemic.
The change was especially dramatic on medRxiv. In January, male scientists were authors on about 20% more papers, a gap that likely exists because there have been historically more clinician researchers who are men than women. By April, however, that figure was over 50%. For papers published in bioRxiv, the publishing gap only increased slightly—from 46% to 47%."
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What's the leading hypothesis as to why this might be happening, you ask? You won't be surprised to find that:

"The authors suggest that female clinician scientists—physicians who also publish scientific research, who have gone through the decades of education required to obtain both an MD and PhD—have faced more caregiving duties that have kept them from working at home over the course of the pandemic than their male counterparts."

Now, we can't in good faith promise you that anything we'll teach you is gonna reverse childcare norms that have probably been in existence for as long as humans have, and giving you a framework to have these hard conversations with your childcare partner is a hot potato we've touched before.

What we can promise in good faith, however, is that paid maternity leave is:

  • One of the best tangible policies that could help narrow this particular gender hap
  • Woefully uncommon in medicine
  • Something that we're pretty darn good at helping women negotiate for

So that's where we'll focus in our "tip of the week"

Who we're following

Dr, Mackzie Wehner, MD, MPhil (@MWehnerMD) is an Assistant Professor in Health Services Research and Dermatology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

She's also the first author of the research we're highlighting today, and has a Twitter feed with one of the highest quality:quantity post ratios (in our opinions) that we've ever seen. Definitely worth a follow, and maybe a DM thanking her for doing this work!

BBMD tip of the week

What is everyone's favorite radio station?

Go ahead, take a second and think about it!


We'll wait...


Okay, stumped yet?

The answer is that everyone's favorite radio station is WIIFM - "What's In It For Me?"

While this is undoubtedly the single most corny, cringe-worthy persuasion rule we've ever heard, its memorable because of how bad it is, and that's why it works.

Now what the hell does that have to do with maternity leave? Good question!

We've found that the best way to get maternity leave is to avoid using those particular words at pretty much all costs, and to instead focus on something that can benefit a wider audience. What might that be?

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Now we will be the first to say that being pregnant is not a disability. What we really want to focus on here is negotiating for a policy that benefits the most people possible to increase your chances of success. Let's walk through the logic:

Which demographic makes the most policy decisions in medicine? 

  • Older men

Which demographic will be most likely to benefit from a short-term disability policy?

  • Older people

Do many short-term disability insurance policies cover a healthy pregnancy?

  • YES!!!

It's much easier to sell the idea of short-term disability insurance to a group of old dudes than it is to sell maternity leave. It's much easier to sell "parental leave" to a group that has a single male than it is to sell maternity leave.

On top of that, starting with short-term disability then moving to parental leave gives you a much stronger position to actually achieve maternity leave concessions in your negotiation. In our curriculum we call this creating "Lines of Retreat." Please allow us to nerd our for a moment

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Imagine any battle scene in any movie or TV show ever - Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones, etc. The armies almost never start in the most fortified part of their  positions - they try to win in the open field first. If that doesn't work, they usually have 2 or 3 fallback points where they'll reassemble and try again, until they reach a final "last stand" situation.

Makes for some great on-screen moments, and it also makes for a great negotiation framework.

If the decision-makers across the table from you have already said no to short-term disability insurance AND parental leave in general, then it's going to be a lot harder for them to say no to your next ask - maternity leave. It simply violates the social contract to have too many negative back-and-forth exchanges in a negotiation. And people are very uncomfortable violating our unwritten social contract.

Which means you'll be maximizing your chances of success.

Quote we're contemplating

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” - Sun Tzu

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PPS - As always, please let us know your requests and suggestions by replying to this email (we read 'em all) or getting at us via Twitter. Which section above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Just send a tweet to @BossB_MD and put #SaturdayMorningRounds in there so we can find it.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!