The gender gap of medicine in 2018

UN Women 2018

(UN Women, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Giolanta Zevgaridou, a 2nd year medical student in the University of Ioannina in Greece. Ms Zevgaridou is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Gender equality is an increasingly debatable topic in almost every profession. “Does gender equality exist?”, “Does  gender equality exist in the workplace?” are only a sample of the variety of questions concerning today’s society.

As medical students and future doctors it is important to approach this topic not only as members of the society but also as a part of the healthcare system. Therefore, it is essential for us to put our interest on gender equality in medicine concerning every aspect of the profession such as inter-professional and doctor-patient relationships.

Concerning academic medicine, there seem to be a lot of stereotypes and a lot of behaviours -from teachers, students or family acquaintances- that may blare one’s decision about the specialty he’ll choose. Indicatively, there seem to be evidence in the United States as well as in Eastern Europe and Asia, that women are yet not chosen for prestigious specialties or academic career.

Therefore, I believe that it is important that the educational system should focus not only in having a similar number of genders as doctors in every specialty (equality), but also an equivalent number of genders as equally educated doctors in every specialty (equity). Practically this means that the system should be directed to provide each student the same stimuli, the same knowledge, and the same opportunities regardless of the gender. This way the human resources available in the medical sector will be fairly distributed among genders. As a result, the various specialties will be practised by truly passionate doctors, meaning the improved performance of medical society.

Having all this data at hand, one can easily understand how this discrimination continues in the workplace and influences the patients. No matter the big steps towards having the same number of doctors (equality), we still lack having the same kind of doctors among genders (equity).

Women must face not only constant doubt about their availability, due to the role of mother they often have, but also constant doubt from their patients, concerning their abilities. Women have traditionally been connected to family and most importantly emotionalism. Therefore, there still are specialties in which patients prefer to choose  man over  woman, such as surgeons where logic must prevail. Even though discrimination in medicine keeps dropping down, there still are some main issues to be ameliorated.

Overall, gender equality is a serious issue in medicine, most importantly on how doctors are and should be perceived as professionals by their co-workers as well as by their patients. During academic years there should be a system providing equality and equity on knowledge and medical students’ orientation. In practising medicine, we should also eliminate aged ideas!

At the end, the absence of gender equality in  medicine makes the oppressed group try harder and achieve the achievable.

About the author

Giolanta is a 2nd year medical student in the University of Ioannina in Greece. She has
been actively participating in HelMSIC since her first year in medical school and is mostly passionate about Public Relations. However, she has been involved in the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and in the Standing Committee on Public Health.

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