Promoting Equality for Women in the Healthcare Industry : A Physician’s Reflection on His Experiences as a Medical Student

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Andy Nugraha, currently studying at Airlangga Medical Faculty in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. 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.



In various parts of the world, women’s rights have started to become a priority. It’s a shame that some countries have been struggling with the same problem for years so that women do not get the full rights they actually born with. From here, as a medical student we should show how to do it right. Accelerating women rights in access to medical services, equal leadership in the hospital as a medical service provider and freedom in pursuing the highest education in the field of medicine brings many benefits. Among them, namely the improvement of the quality of life of women and makes the existing health system even better       

The first problems that are often encountered are reproductive health or infertility. In the era of ease access to information, people still regard infertility as a woman’s fault even before they start seeking medical advice. This kind of stigma is a challenge for medical students to educate the community as much as possible providing them with sufficient and relevant information that both parties contribute to fertility. And synergize, not blame, is the right answer when dealing with this problem.          

Second, women have less freedom in choosing whether or not they need medical care. Husbands or fathers and even the women’s families themselves tend to make decisions for them. Sometimes a misinterpretation of the non-confrontational nature of their daughter or wife makes them feel like they don’t do anything wrong. As a future doctor, we need to stop for a moment to understand the situation and ask permission to provide a space that maintains privacy where we can ask the necessary information directly from the patient and some things that the patient may not dare to convey in front of the family. After that we can submit our objective assessment (while still paying attention to input from patients) whether a medical care is still needed. 

Third, the number of gender based discrimination and violence is still high at this time. This is also influenced by realities such as poverty and economic dependence. The belief that men are the main providers of the family and it’s women’s responsibillity to raise children in many countries is still an obstacle for women to assume full autonomy in life decision-making.

Meanwhile, in the healthcare industry, gender disparity is still experienced by women. Because of the fact that 75% of healthcare workers in the world consist of women, but only 25% of these women hold leadership positions (1). Only 15.9% of women have the top title of clinical doctors (3). The same is true in the field of healthcare provider, as only 14% of hospital boards of directors and only 18% of hospital CEOs are women leaders (2). A survey using an online questionaire conducted by Kalaitzi et al in 2018 identified reinforced stereotypes and inflexible work environments as problems that are often encountered (4). So as medical students we need to create a comfortable environment for women healthcare workers, ranging from things that can be done by yourself to providing input to the authorities. 

References 

1. HRH Global Resource Center. Resource Spotlight: Gender and Health Workforce Statistics. (2017). Available online at: http://www.hrhresourcecenter.org/gender_stats (accessed March 10, 2017).
2. Hauser MC. Leveraging women’s leadership talent in healthcare. J Healthc Manag. (2014) 59:318–22.
3. Newman C. Time to address gender discrimination and inequality in health workforce. Hum Resour Health. (2014) 12:25. doi: 10.1186/1478-4491-12-25
4. Kalaitzi, Stavroula, et al. Exploring Women Healthcare Leaders’ Perceptions on Barriers to Leadership in Greek Context. Frontiers in public health, 2019, 7: 68.

About the author

Andy Nugraha is currently studying at Airlangga Medical Faculty in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. He is looking forward to deepen his knowledge in Internal Medicine in the future. He hasn’t been in any movement before but realizing that accelerating women’s equality will benefit us in the long run. So he decided to be part of people who implements the elements starting from their own selves. His sister is also an activist in women’s natural right and his family always encourage her.

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