A new study out of Harvard University has found that female surgeons are punished more than male surgeons for the same mistakes. A working paper out of Harvard University offers insights on this very subject. For the paper, economics PhD candidate Heather Sarsons came up with a study design to gage exactly how much more women were punished at work compared to men.
Sarsons gathered Medicare data on referrals from doctors to surgeons in the United States, and then looked at what happened to doctors’ referral rates after one of their patients died during a surgery. She found that referrals dropped by 54% after a patient died at the hands of a female surgeon, but when it was a male surgeon whose patient died, there was only a small stagnation in the referrals the surgeon received from the doctor. The referring doctors judged female surgeons who had bad patient outcomes much more harshly than male surgeons, and that judgement determined their decision. It was concluded that the surgeon’s gender–more than his or her performance–massively impacted whether or not a doctor would continue sending patients to that surgeon.
Sarsons also discovered that the performance of one female surgeon later shaped how all female surgeons in the same speciality were viewed by referring physicians afterward. In addition, she also found that women were less likely to be promoted to high-level positions than their male colleagues.