WMDR wants to make it easier for you to navigate through all the stuff they didn’t teach you in medical school. We’ve tried to make this glossary as accessible as possible without being too technical or laden with legal jargon. If you think we’ve left out something important or made a terrible blunder, please contact us!


Affirmative Action refers to programs designed to remedy the effects of past and continuing discriminatory practices in the recruiting, selecting, developing, and promoting of women or other disadvantaged groups. Affirmative action programs seek to create systems and procedures to prevent future discrimination by ensuring equality of outcomes, such as quota percentages, timetables, and affirmative action training programs.

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution that gives a third party power to “hear” the case in a less formal environment than a court. Usually, the parties agree that the final judgment of the arbiter(s) will be binding.


Board Certified refers to doctors who have successfully finished a course of study and passed a series of written and often oral examinations. In addition to these tests, some specialties require several years of practice with the demonstration of competence in patient care with the review of both clinical outcomes and complications.


Change management is a formalized, usually structured, approach of going from one state or reality to another, ideal place, taking steps to achieve this transformation.

The culture of a people, business, or institution includes the entire complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. This includes all aspects of the way the “business of that unit is conducted”: Not only arts and literature but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions, and beliefs.


Discrimination in the Workplace refers to discrimination in compensation, resources, opportunities for advancement, job assignment, hiring, termination, and workplace environment (e.g. hostile work environment, sexual harassment).


Equal Opportunity measures seek to provide women with an equitable environment and optimum conditions to reach equal status with men.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency “responsible for enforcing the federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” The EEOC may investigate and in rare cases, bring a claim on behalf of a litigant, but it does not have the full regulatory status of other oversight federal agencies and therefore cannot regulate or punish discrimination in the workplace when present.



Gender refers to the socially and culturally constructed roles, privileges, responsibilities, power and influence, social relations, expectations, and value of men and women, girls and boys. There are significant differences in what women and men can or cannot do in one society when compared to another. Gender refers to the societal roles, and sex to the biological differences between men and women.

Gender Bias refers to unequal treatment in many environments e.g. educational or employment opportunities. This includes access to resources, promotion, pay, benefits, and privileges. Expectations are different due to attitudes based on the sex of the individual.

Gender Differences refer to those differences that exist between men and women that are socially based. Sex differences are those that are biologically based.

Gender Discrimination laws are the laws that apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits based on gender.

Gender Empowerment is a process of awareness and capacity-building leading to greater participation in transformative action, greater decision-making power, and control over one’s life and other processes.

Gender Equality emphasizes treating men and women in the same way. Gender equality assumes that if men and women are treated the same, then equality results. This is untrue. Treating men and women “the same” may result in unequal outcomes because of the conditions under which equal treatment is meant to exist which does not allow for equality to exist.

Gender Equity, though often used interchangeably with gender equality, is a very distinct concept. Equity programs favor treating women and men differently in order to achieve equal status for women and men. Such programs are based on the premise that if women and men were treated the same way (equally) there would be a risk of reaching unfair outcomes due to original disparities.

Gender Gap is any statistical gap between the measured characteristics of men and women in areas such as educational attainment, wage rates, or labor force participation.

Gender Inequality is the disparities in access to opportunities and resources based on gender and derived from social constructs and biological differences.

Gender Mainstreaming, as defined by the United Nations, is assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies, and programs, in any area and at different levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programs, in all political, economic, and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

Gender Stereotyping is the process by which women and men are assigned specific qualities based on their sex rather than their performance. Applying gender assumptions, e.g. women who are strongly opinionated are “aggressive,” but men who are strongly opinionated are “assertive,” creates environments that perpetuate the gender gap and unhealthy work environments.


Health Promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health.

Hostile Work Environment refers to a workplace situation where an employee cannot reasonably perform his or her work, due to certain behaviors by management or co-workers that are considered hostile. In a legal sense, it is defined in very specific terms.
Acts of sexual harassment, discrimination, or a workplace that cause severe stress may be considered part of a hostile work environment.

Human capital (or Human Capabilities) are the productive investments embodied in human persons. These include skills, abilities, ideals, and health resulting from expenditures on education, on-the-job training programs, and medical care.

Human Development is the process of expanding people’s choices so that they can live a long and healthy life, be educated, have access to resources for a decent standard of living, enjoy political, economic, social, and cultural freedoms, and have human rights, self-esteem, and opportunities for being creative and productive.





Litigation refers to seeking a legal solution for perceived inequalities and discrimination.


Mediation refers to an alternative form of dispute resolution, which does not involve the courts. The complainant and the defendant agree to sit down with a mutually agreed upon third party to work out their differences.

Medical School is a four-year course of study after college when the future physician starts studying to become a doctor. Several years are usually spent studying basic science and social issues; several years are spent learning the basics of evaluating and treating patients.

Medical Societies are organizations that physicians join to help further research and educational and political advances for their specialty and for medicine as a whole.

Mentoring refers to the process by which a more experienced physician guides a less experienced physician through the challenges of becoming a physician in all the different pathways that exist—academic, political, community-based practice, etc.



Organizational Culture refers to the codes of conduct, values, beliefs, and actions that are shared by a group of people working within a specific environment.

Organizational Change is when an organization transitions from one state to another, usually one that will confer greater profitability in the marketplace.


Parental Leave refers to specific time allowances without penalty for both men and women to attend to life-changing family matters such as birth, adoption, or serious illness of a child.



Residency Training is a 3 to the 8-year period when medical school graduates train, gaining clinical experience, for their board certifications in a given specialty. This training is completed under the supervision of medical educators who progressively increase the responsibilities of young doctors over time until they are deemed ready to assume full responsibility for patients.

Retaliation includes any adverse action taken against an employee for filing a complaint or supporting another employee’s complaint under a variety of discrimination laws. The most common type of retaliation claim involves an employee who alleges discrimination and then is punished for making a complaint to her employer or a relevant federal agency.


Sexual Harassment refers to sexual advances, intimidation, innuendo, bullying, or coercion that is sexual in nature. This includes the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of advantages in exchange for sexual favors.


Tenure is a permanent employment status given to a professor in a medical school (or any academic institution). It is usually associated with a higher rank. Its basis is in property rights, and therefore, tenure is a property right, which cannot be removed except under specific circumstances.




Workplace Discrimination—see “discrimination in the workplace.”