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I’'d just finished seeing a client. It was a challenging case and I was congratulating myself on having given a comprehensive differential diagnosis and detailed how I planned to investigate, when I heard the client talking to her friend in the waiting room. “What’s wrong?” the friend asked. “He doesn’t know,” the client replied.

I was reminded of the incident the other day when commenting on the SPVS Salaries Survey. The figures revealed that women’s salaries began to fall behind men’s as they got older and I wondered if this was due to the same factors that Michelle Ryan had observed could erode women’s ambition over time. Of course I should have used the word erode, but instead I said their ambition got less, which was in turn taken to imply that women lacked ambition.

Words: they're as much a part of our toolkit as a stethoscope is, but it was a sobering reminder for me that communication is an art which it is all too easy to get wrong. Which got me wondering: should I, a male, white and privileged to boot, have even been commenting on the figures at all? In one sense it is difficult for anyone who has not experienced discrimination to speak on behalf of someone who has. Even the exact same words can evoke a completely different response, depending on who is using them. But on the other hand, it is an issue which concerns us all, and if, as research suggests, the factors that contribute to the erosion of ambition in the workplace are often subtle, it is all the more important that we combine resources to address them.

So, with apologies for my clumsy use of language, SPVS will continue to raise the issue of the gender pay gap, in the hope that we can work to understand and tackle it together.