AND THE $7 MILLION ISN’T ONE OF THEM!
$7 million dollars is a lot of money, especially for a gender bias suit. But the large dollar figure is not the real story here. The real story is found in how this played out because this is what has implications for women physicians who are facing gender discrimination, harassment, and physician targeting. These are the extraordinary facts, that every one of us who has gone through this terrible process of litigation must realize are miracles, of this case:
Miracle #1. The settlement is not a secret.
Most cases that are settled out of court, unless they involve a public institution, are kept secret. The reasoning is that public knowledge will cause others to bring forth their complaints or the institution’s reputation will be sullied. How fallacious can this be? Beth Israel and Harvard can now point to their pro-activity and use it in the future to show that they have the proper policies and procedures in place to prevent this type of activity. And the positive publicity is definitely a plus. Despite the large award, this story has not gone viral–a villain repentant is not front page news; a woman who gets what she really wanted–recognition and change–is even less newsworthy.
Miracle #2. Dr. Warfield did not have to leave her place of work.
Most attorneys will tell you, “If you plan to sue your employer, plan to separate from your place of work.” The punishment for exercising your legal rights to raise issues of gender discrimination will leave you without your job. Dr. Warfield will keep on working at the institution she has served so well for over 30 years!
Miracle # 3. “No fault, no admission of guilt” was softened by other words of conciliation.
With only the Boston Globe article as source material, one had to read it carefully to find the words that evidenced the institution’s admission that their role was one that merited this settlement. Quoting the legal counsel for the defense: “This case serves as a reminder that, with time and consideration, people of goodwill can learn from one another. As we look back on this case, there are lessons for the institution.’’
Miracle #4. Dr. Warfield received her due recognition for her accomplishments.
Decades ago, Dr. Warfield, well ahead of her time, established a pain clinic. That pain clinic is now named in her honor, and this is where she will see patients and continue her work. This one brings tears to my eyes.
Miracle #5. Institutional action will be taken to improve the environment for women scientists and physicians.
A lectureship will be established to keep a focus on the accomplishments and the challenges women face in the medical workplace. Dr. Warfield will also sit on a committee to monitor the progress of women. This is a very important step, which we can only hope will be a springboard for other impactful changes. Dr. Warfield should press for a national audience with the talks recorded and available online for others to learn.
And what can others learn from this case? That what women really want are the 5 miracles that Dr. Warfield received. We want change. We want to be able to work as we are without experiencing humiliation and devaluation. We want to make a difference for our patients. We want our fair share of recognition.
The dollar amount is hard to ignore, but it isn’t the most extraordinary part of the story. And anyone who has litigated for gender discrimination knows that the fairy tale ending is extremely rare. This is the real story, the extraordinary facts of the case. These are the best practices that every institution should follow. After all, doesn’t every place aspire to be like Harvard?
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