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Closing the empathy gap towards equitable outcomes: gender equity in the medical workforce
  1. Aleem Bharwani,
  2. Shannon M Ruzycki
  1. Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aleem Bharwani, Medicine, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Canada; ambharwa{at}


Background Empathy failures lead to equity failures. Women and men physicians experience work differently. Men physicians, however, may be unaware how these differences impact their colleagues. This constitutes an empathy gap; empathy gaps are associated with harm to outgroups. In our previous published work, we found that men had divergent views from women about the experiences of women relating to gender equity; senior men differed most from junior women. Since men physicians hold disproportionately more leadership roles than women, this empathy gap warrants exploration and remediation.

Analysis Gender, age, motivation and power each seems to influence our empathic tendencies. Empathy, however, is not a static trait. Empathy can be developed and displayed by individuals through their thoughts, words and actions. Leaders can also influence culture by enshrining an empathic disposition in our social and organisation structures.

Conclusions We outline methods to increase our empathic capacities as individuals and organisations through perspective-taking, perspective-giving and verbal commitments to institutional empathy. In doing so, we challenge all medical leaders to herald an empathic transformation of our medical culture in pursuit of a more equitable and pluralistic workplace for all groups of people.

  • empathy
  • communication
  • emotional intelligence
  • health system
  • medical leadership

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  • Twitter @AleemBharwani, @ShannonRuzycki

  • Contributors AB and SMR both made substantial contributions to the conception and design of the work; acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data for the work; drafting the work and revising it critically for important intellectual content; final approval of the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.