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Career & Leadership

Girl confidence in a man’s world

June 28, 2020

Something you might wonder is how to have girl confidence in a man’s world. This is how one reader put it, as she considered a field with traditionally low female representation.

As a companion question she wondered, “How do you get people to trust you in a male-dominated field?”

These are important questions to ponder, because the world still doesn’t treat men and women equally. Let’s explore them a bit. 

But first: a caveat. 

There are some people you can’t trust and some people you can’t change. And those are sexist people. Sexism can take many forms, from the paternalistic brand of “benevolent sexism,” to the blatant, corrosive type that can rear its ugly head, even from ‘nice’ attendings. When you identify these traits, to the extent that you can, try to insulate yourself from those who would try to discourage or degrade you. If you’re working with them directly, take their advice with a grain of salt, once you’ve heard or seen sexist actions. There’s no way to sugar-coat it; their influence can taint your experience. And there are challenges you’ll encounter in medicine that are indistinctly colored with a coat of gender bias, but are mostly about something else. You’ll have to deal with those too. Don’t worry, you can do it. 

Aside from this caveat, I think the secret to having confidence and getting peers to trust you is to focus on what you’re doing. Here are some examples of ways you can do that. 

First, kick ass in training.

I wouldn’t say that I kicked butt in training, but I got through my training at truly excellent programs. I did the best I could, and your best is enough. It is.

And while you might not have the privilege of being a man in a male-dominated field, just going through training can put you in a place of authority, and thus a position of privilege. Now that I’m well-trained and have had a chance to prove myself, I have male partners who respect me and listen when I speak. Although women can jump a few more hurdles because of pervasive gender biases, in my particular environment, it’s been a meritocracy where I was able to prove myself, earning the respect and trust of those around me. 

So first, focus on training, and do the best you can.

Focus on the patient

The way I get trust now is by building a reputation, and a large part of your reputation is consistency. For example, as an attending, when addressing a consult or potential disagreement in management, I share my expertise and thought process. I’m not attached to the outcome, say skipping the late gastric tube to get home on time; rather, I’m open to getting more information with strategic questions, and working with the referring physician to find the best solution for the patient.

If that patient is at increased risk with my procedure, I level with the referrer. It may seem simple, but that’s how I’ve gotten respect. Just by knowing as much as I can, sharing that knowledge, being flexible around patient-centric requests, and offering my best technical skills. 

Focus on collegiality

Being available and affable doesn’t mean being perfect. It means being pleasant enough. I’m not nice or receptive at all times. As a consultant, sometimes people push me to do what I think is suboptimal or even wrong. We discuss those cases, and I’m diplomatic most of the time.

The confidence and trust goes both ways. I’ve experienced some referrals which were clinically dubious: the surgeon who hasn’t spoken to or examined the patient while demanding an emergent abscess drain. Seeing how others lose respect can be an example of what not to do. Bottom line: be as good as you can be, and don’t push people around. When you hone your craft, over time, your reputation will precede you. 

Grow confident in your worth

When you grow this confidence, you poise yourself to earn the money that they do. It takes confidence to know what the guys earn and ask for it. Joe Shmoe MD shouldn’t get paid more because he’s supporting a family. But sadly, this kind of thinking persists in some practices, even if unconsciously. Whether you’re supporting your fur-babies or a burgeoning purse collection, you worked just as hard for those patients and RVUs.

Find out what everyone else is making and ask for that. You’re worthy of equal pay for equal work. When you do the same work, and bear the same level of responsibility, your compensation should reflect that.

Know you’re worthy

You are smart enough, and you are worthy. The brightest people are prone to imposter syndrome. It’s natural to see your personal limits in medicine and occasionally be freaked out by them. That’s normal. You’re worthy of the career that interests you and all the success it brings.

You’re worthy of being called Doctor, not Miss First Name. You deserve respect, and you can be nice too. You don’t have to choose between the two. Let the society that tells you to choose catch up at its own slow pace. You’re too nimble to let that hold you back. 

Now go! Make the next move toward confidence. 

Take a step right now and secure your confidence in writing!

I’ve decided to extend registration and reschedule my workshop, previously set for Sunday, 7/5. After registration, we will find a mutually agreeable time using a Doodle poll.

When you sign up here, you’ll get a free worksheet to start drafting your own professional brag sheet. I’ve used this strategy (to kill it) in my career again and again.

At the live workshop, I’ll give you personalized feedback on your “brags,” and show you how to use them to your advantage. That’s how you really get girl-confidence in a man’s world.

So, are you ready? If so, click below ↓↓↓

Yes. I want to be as confident as the boys. TEACH ME TO BRAG!

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  1. Amina Farooq says:

    This was exactly what I needed to read today-thank you!

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