Women doctors still face a frustrating gender bias. Here's how they keep moving forward.
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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

If you had a heart attack right now, what do you think your chances of surviving would be?

Obviously that would depend on a number of factors, including age, lifestyle and medical history, but gender also plays a part. And we're not just talking about your own gender:  the gender of your attending cardiologist can have an impact too — especially if you're a woman.

According to a study that was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a woman is more likely to survive a heart attack if her attending physician is also a woman.


Photo via Pasárgada Comunicação/Flickr.

The study was based on data collected from 1991 to 2010 with 582,000 patients. Its results suggest that women are less likely than men to survive cardiac arrest in general, but the survival rate gap between genders was largest when the attending physician was male.

However, both men and women's survival rates were higher when they were in the care of a woman physician.

Since women physicians are so adept at saving the lives of heart attack patients, you'd think there'd be a lot of them. But cardiology remains male-dominated: only 10% of cardiologists are women.

It's a frustrating reality that hasn't changed much in decades.

That said, there are inspiring women who are making their way in the field and doing their part to help other prospective women cardiologists follow suit.  One such cardiologist is Dr. Nicole Harkin of Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates.

Photo via Dr. Harkin.

Ironically, Dr. Harkin was always in the presence of a lot of women on her journey to becoming a doctor. She was at an all-girls high school when she realized she loved science and wanted to go into medicine. When she attended medical school at Boston University, her graduating class was 60% female. And when she completed her fellowship at New York University, the class was a 50/50 gender split.

Here's the thing: Dr. Harkin's experience isn't unusual.

"There’s a fair amount of women training to be doctors, they’re just not going into different specialties in an equal proportion," she explains.

Dr. Harkin postulates this may have something to do with the fact that certain areas of medicine — like cardiology — still feel like boys clubs at times. And, even though some fields can be more competitive than others, there's no reason women should feel like they don't belong there. However, because of the perpetuation of outdated stereotypes, that's exactly what happens.

Fortunately, Dr. Harkin wasn't really intimidated by her field because she was lucky enough to train in an incredibly supportive environment where there were other women fellows and mentors.

"My mentors and my strong educational background made me confident in my skills," she explains. "And my passion made me persevere."

Still, gender stereotypes pervade all aspects of medicine, often making women doctors feel like they're not regarded with the same level of respect as their male colleagues.

Photo by Martin Brosy/Unsplash.

For example, when Dr. Harkin was going through the interview process to become a cardiology fellow, she remembers feeling like some of her interviewers were trying to suss out whether or not she was planning to have kids soon.

"That definitely rubbed me the wrong way," she recalls. "I wondered if I were a man if I would’ve been asked that."

And when it comes to patient care, she can't count the number of times she's been mistaken for a nurse, especially by older men.

If that's not bad enough, according to a 2017 survey, women doctors make $105,000 less a year on average than men doctors.

Photo via US Army Africa/Flickr.

Yet, despite all that, there have been numerous studies that suggest women doctors may be better caregivers than their male counterparts because they're more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, are more focused on preventative care, and communicate more with their patients.

In fact, communication may be an important factor in whether or not a cardiac arrest patient survives.

Dr. Harkin believes that women patients may feel more inclined to discuss their symptoms with a female doctor because there is a perception that a male doctor might dismiss or downplay them.

This could be exacerbated by the fact that the early symptoms of a heart attack can present differently in women than in men. For women, the signs of a heart attack can include jaw or shoulder pain, shortness of breath and nausea. Sometimes, it just feels like a bad case of indigestion.

It doesn't help that women appear in cardiovascular studies far less often than men, so the details around their symptoms are still less widely known. More medical studies that represent both genders equally would serve all doctors, not just male doctors.

The medical community still has a long way to go to close its gender gap, but women like Dr. Harkin are doing what they can to move the needle forward. And they're saving countless lives in the process.

Medical students graduating in Cuba. Photo via undp timorleste/Flickr.

She was a chief fellow in her fellowship program, and often spoke with other women fellows about their concerns with cardiology, the work-life balance, and what they need to do to achieve their goals.

"I think that’s huge in terms of fostering women and encouraging them to go into some of these specialties," Dr. Harkin notes.

After all, Dr. Harkin's own mentors were instrumental in her succeeding in her field.

"It fosters that sense of 'hey, I can do this too.'"

What's more, organizations like the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) now have a number of women in leadership roles in order to help keep gender equality a constant part of the conversation while the field of cardiology evolves. Hopefully soon, with their guidance, the disparities in pay, family planning, and respect will be a thing of the past.

Clearly women doctors are just as competent as men doctors, and their presence within a medical community can only help that community do better by its patients. It's time they're treated like they deserve to be there.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.