I was working at a University Hospital when a woman in scrubs with a face mask dangling around her neck came in to see the CEO.
Being the CEO’s secretary/gatekeeper, I asked the woman what her name was. She told me and I announced to the CEO that Nurse So-and-So was there to see him.
I was wrong.
The woman wasn’t “Nurse So-and-So.” She was “Doctor So-and-So.” In fact, to be specific, she was a surgeon. I had just assumed that a “woman” in scrubs would be a nurse, not a so-called, more educated, and definitely more well-paid doctor.
Embarrassed, I apologized the next time we met.
“It’s alright,” she said. “It happens all the time.
She was gracious. She was professional. And she was telling the truth. It was 25 years ago and it did happen all the time.
The situation opened my eyes to my own internal sexism and I promised myself that I would never make such an assumption again.
But then, such moments are the way we learn.
In a recent incident that took place during a flight on a Delta airplane, it appears that another such learning moment took place.
A passenger was in distress and the pilot asked for a doctor over the public address system, and a young, black woman sitting nearby announced that she could help.
In fact, the woman was already halfway out of her seat once she learned that there was someone who had stopped breathing sitting a few rows in front of her on the plane. She was, however, stopped from helping.
“Oh no, sweetie,” the steward said, “we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.”
The woman was, in fact, a doctor.
Today, “women account for a third of the nation’s lawyers and doctors, a major shift from a generation ago,” and the steward’s behavior on the plane leaves a lot to question.
I would have hoped that a person who deals with the public would be more conscious of their own internal sexism—and racism.
Hopefully, the steward has learned just how wrong she/he was—so wrong that a man’s life hung in the balance— and this will end up being a wake up call for that steward as well as for all of the staff on the plane.
For all of us, the windows through which we look out at the world may not provide us with a clear view; they may be blurred by our position, the color of our skin, what we have been taught and even by what we have seen in the media.
The truth is that women of all colors are doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
In fact, some of them are airplane pilots who fly Delta Airplanes.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: YouTube Still
Editor: Travis May