Adrienne A. Williams, PhD
I stood next to the leader of the community group in the city where I had just moved as he introduced me to a room of 100 people:
“This is Adrienne. She is a nurse at the local hospital.”
“Nope! No, I am not a nurse. I am a doctor. What made you think I was a nurse?”
He stammered. “Oh, I thought you had said you were a nurse.”
I had approached the leader at the beginning of the meeting and told him that I was new in town and might be interested in the community group. He asked what brought me here, and I told him that I had gotten a job at the hospital. That had been our whole conversation, and he never asked what my job was, so I was surprised that that he declared that I was nurse with such confidence in front of a bunch of people. It obviously wasn’t being mistaken for a nurse that bothered me – nursing is an amazing profession. But there are hundreds of jobs that he could have incorrectly guessed at a hospital: food service, MRI technician, medical resident, administration, billing, transport… so it was clear that gender stereotyping had led to his assumption about me: hospital + youngish female = nurse.
This was not an isolated incident. It also happened regularly at work among both patients and colleagues, which directly impacted how I was able to get my work done given that I was frequently being mistaken for a different job role. It was especially interesting when the nursing staff would do it, sometimes taking my comments about what should be done with a patient as being part of the nursing discussion, and then taking my male colleague’s comments as instructions or orders. We have all internalized so many stereotypes.
Time’s Up Now, a social welfare organization that aims to eliminate sexual inequality, harassment, and assault in the workplace, announced this week that it would be launching Time’s Up Healthcare to address these three issues in health care industries. Now that the #MeToo movement is being more specifically highlighted in health care, I would love to hear from our members how they feel health psychologists can play a role.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would be interested in writing a piece on the role of health psychologists in Time’s Up Healthcare for The Health Psychologist’s Focus on Diversity column.