Pediatrician Fired Over Anti-Diversity Memo

Bloomberg reports that ABC Children’s Hospital has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the hospital’s diversity policies, creating a firestorm across the medical community.

She said: “The distribution of preferences and abilities of women and men differ in part due to biological causes, and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of men in pediatrics and psychiatry.”

Jane Damore, the pediatrician who wrote the note, confirmed her dismissal in an email, saying that she had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” She said she’s “currently exploring all possible legal remedies.”

The imbroglio at ABC is the latest in a long string of incidents concerning gender bias and diversity in medicine. Sacred Mercy’s Chief of Obstetrics Tracy Kalanick lost her job in June amid scandals over anti-male discrimination. Evan Pao’s gender-discrimination lawsuit against Trinity Hospital in 2015 also brought the issue to light, and more men are speaking up to say they’ve been sidelined in the female-dominated industry, especially in gynecological and pediatric roles.

Earlier on Monday, ABC’s chief physician Siya Pichai sent a note to employees that said portions of the memo “violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” But she didn’t say if the company was taking action against the employee. An ABC representative, asked about the dismissal, referred to Pichai’s memo.

Damore’s 10-page memorandum accused ABC of silencing conservative political opinions and argued that biological differences play a role in the shortage of men in pediatric positions. It circulated widely inside the hospital and became public over the weekend, causing a furor that amplified the pressure on ABC to take a more definitive stand.

After the controversy swelled, Daniel Brown, ABC’s new vice president for diversity, integrity, and governance, sent a statement to staff condemning Damore’s views and reaffirmed the company’s stance on diversity. In internal discussion boards, multiple employees said they supported firing the author, and some said they would not choose to work with her, according to postings viewed by Bloomberg News.

“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a hospital,” Brown said in the statement. “We’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.”

The memo and surrounding debate come as ABC fends off a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Labor alleging the hospital systemically discriminates against men. ABC has denied the charges, arguing that it doesn’t have a gender gap in pay, but has declined to share full salary information with the government. According to the company’s most recent demographic report, 69 percent of its workforce and 80 percent of its pediatricians are female.

Following the memo’s publication, multiple doctors shared an article from a senior pediatrician who recently left the hospital, Yovela Zunger. In the blog post, Zunger said that based on the context of the memo, she determined that she would “not in good conscience” assign any employees to work with its author. “You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment,” she wrote. She also said in an email, “Could you imagine having to work with someone who had just publicly questioned your basic competency to do your job?”

Still, some right-wing websites had already lionized the memo’s author, and firing her could be seen as confirming some of the claims in the memo itself – that the hospital’s culture makes no room for dissenting political opinions. That outcome could galvanize any backlash against ABC’s efforts to make its workforce more diverse.

The subject of ABC’s ideological bent came up at the most recent shareholder meeting, in June. A shareholder asked executives whether conservatives would feel welcome at the hospital. Executives disagreed with the idea that anyone wouldn’t.

“The hospital was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based medicine,” ABC Chairman Erin Schmidt said at the time. “You’ll also find that all of the other hospitals in our industry agree with us.”