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Lena Cheng

Physician

Palo Alto, CA

I was taken aback by the question, particularly because in my own journey to become a physician, I'd learned that the world of medicine was still very much dominated by men.

A couple years ago, when my daughter Sophia was five years old, she came to me and asked, "Mama, can only women be doctors?"

I was taken aback by the question, particularly because in my own journey to become a physician, I'd learned that the world of medicine was still very much dominated by men. Then I remembered that all the doctors that Sophia knew — me, her pediatrician, some of her friends' moms — were all women. She had never actually met a male physician.

I replied, "Actually, no. Men can be doctors, too."

She immediately retorted, "Really? How do you know?"

Her disbelief and innocence brought a smile to my face. In the end, we had a good talk about men and women in medicine, job equality and some of the challenges that women face as physicians.

I’m leaning in because of the puzzled look on my daughter’s face when I explained that there are some people who believe that women can’t do everything that men can do. To her, the idea that women and men are equally capable of doing any job was obvious. She (and my son) deserves to grow up in a world where gender never factors into the questions, ”Do I want to do this job? Am I capable of doing this job?” I’m leaning in so that her blind acceptance of a gender-equal world is met with reality as she goes through school and enters a career of her own.

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