Gender Issues in Diabetes Health Care a Key Topic at ADA Scientific Sessions


Leaders in diabetes research and treatment provide resources to overcome gendered disparities in the field.

Almost half of the US workforce consists of women, yet gender disparities exist regarding clinical practice as it relates to to diabetes research and treatment.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that women make up 47% of the workforce in America, but only 34% of physicians and surgeons in 2011 were women, according to a press release from the American Diabetes Association. These figures prompted several female leaders to discuss gender disparities and biases in diabetes care at the American Diabetes Association’s 78thScientific Sessions in Orlando this weekend.

Elizabeth R. Seaquist, MD, gave a presentation about gender biases that occur in clinical sciences, including the prevalence sexual harassment and steps to overcome it, according to the press release. She used information from a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as experience from her own career as a clinical investigator.

“The gender gap in medicine is real, and with an ongoing commitment throughout the health care infrastructure, we can affect change,” Dr. Seaquist said in a press release. “Increased diversity and women in leadership roles in the academic medical setting provides the opportunity for critical perspectives and knowledge that can improve care and outcomes.”

The report, issued by the National Academies of Science, Engingeering, and Medicine, this year concluded that 4 factors increase the risk of sexual harassment in the clinical sciences, including male dominated work places; hierarchies that allow individuals to hold power over research funding, mentorship, and career advancement for students and faculty; ineffective or unenforced sexual harassment policies; and leadership that lacks the skills needed to prevent sexual harassment.

The report highlights several recommendations to prevent sexual harassment in the clinical workplace notably: addressing gender based harassment; addressing the culture and climate of the workplace; creating a diverse, inclusive, and respectful work environment; creating transparency and accountability in handling sexual harassment reports in the workplace; changing the hierarchal dynamic that requires trainees to be dependent on faculty for funding and mentorship; providing support for sexual harassment victims; and also, creating strong and diverse leadership in the workplace.

Even female-dominated areas of diabetes care, including nursing, health education, and psychology, also face gender issues, according to the press release. The ADA’s 2018 President of Health Care and Education, Felicia Hill-Briggs, PhD, ABPP, addressed these issues in her presentation titled: Overcoming Gender Gaps in Science—A Health Education and Behavioral Discipline Perspective.

“These disciplines often face undervaluing of their science—sometimes denoted as ‘soft science’— inequities in their professional standing, and fewer opportunities for advancement within academic medicine, as a consequence of larger societal systems of gender and gender bias,” Dr. Hill-Briggs said in a press release. “Gender bias systems have contributed to lower priority and professional status for these expert disciplines and professionals.”

Officials with the American Diabetes Association are tackling the issue of gender disparities in diabetes care through their network of female health care professionals, The Women’s Interprofessional Network of the American Diabetes Association (WIN ADA). WIN ADA strives to offer resources for women in the field of diabetes care, including the recognition of contributions of women in diabetes research and treatment and providing resources for career advancement and networking.

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