Research News | Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women | Issues Faced by Senior Women Physicians

Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women

Joanne Song McLaughlin. Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women. LABOUR, 2020; 34 (2): 215

Theories and evidence suggest that older women may experience unique discrimination for being both old and female in the workplace. To provide a remedy for this type of discrimination — known as intersectional discrimination — legal scholars argue that age and sex discrimination laws must be used jointly and acknowledge intersectional discrimination (age-plus-sex or sex-plus-age discrimination) as a separate cause of action. Nonetheless, in general, courts have declined to do so even though older women are protected under both age and sex discrimination laws. This raises a concern that age discrimination laws may be ineffective, or less effective in protecting older women. I test this implication by estimating the differential effect of age discrimination laws on labor market outcomes between older women and older men. My findings show that age discrimination laws did far less to improve labor market outcomes for older women than for older men. These results may explain the persistent findings of discrimination against older women in the existing literature and support the legal scholars’ argument that older women’s intersectional discrimination must be recognized as a separate cause of action.

Issues Faced by Senior Women Physicians

Templeton, K., Nilsen, K., Walling, A., & Templeton, K. (2020). Issues Faced by Senior Women Physicians: A National Survey. Journal of Women’s Health (2002).

Background: As the first large numbers of female physicians complete their careers, information is needed to enable institutions and individuals to optimize the final career phase and transition to retirement of these women, as well as to help younger women physicians prepare for later phases of their careers.

Materials and Methods: To identify the leading issues for older female physicians, a 34-item electronic questionnaire covering heath, finances, preparation for and attitudes about retirement, caretaking responsibilities, life-work integration, various aspects of discrimination and harassment, professional isolation, and work-related stress and burnout-incorporating standardized measures of career satisfaction was distributed through the Kansas Medical Society and nationally through the American Medical Association Senior Physicians Section newsletter to female physicians older than 60 years in 2018. A total of 155 physicians self-identified as eligible and completed at least half of the survey.

Results: Respondents were 60-87 years of age, mean 70.4 (±6.4) years. The majority reported good health and being financially well prepared for retirement. Twenty percent were caretakers for grandchildren, parents, or spouses. Measures of career and job satisfaction were reasonably high, despite negative work environment and burnout scores. Problems with family/career balance, age- and gender-based discrimination and harassment, salary inequity, and professional isolation persisted throughout their careers, but diminished in frequency for senior women.

Conclusions: Issues faced by younger women physicians do not disappear with age or seniority. To recruit and support female physicians, issues such as balancing family/work responsibilities, combating harassment and bias, and promoting healthy work environments must be addressed throughout their entire careers.