The role of medical students in closing the gaps in accelerating women’s rights

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bhanavath Bhanu, a 2nd year medical student from Bhaskar Medical College from India. She 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.

The medical profession is dedicated to protect and improve the health of all persons, irrespective of their gender, cultural or social background. However, in this very profession the augmentation of gender stereotypes, inequality and gender-based discrimination persist from the time of enrolment in medical school and from the classroom to placements in clinics and hospitals. Gender disparity is also seen in salary and promotion to top positions. It has affected all aspects of medical student’s life until the end of one’s professional career.

Consequently, it has an impact on career choices, attrition and mental health. Though women have progressed in every aspect of their work still they find many difficulties in advancing themselves and they are overshadowed just because of their gender. Female representation in medical field accounts for low percentage with respect to the senior leadership roles, management and administration of hospital in a male-dominated working environment.

Female and male physicians practice medicine differently. Female physicians have shown to engage in better communication skills, show empathy, compassion and allocate more time to preventative care. They have the potential of better leadership qualities. In recent years gradual acceptance of women in male-dominated specialties has increased, but a commitment to improving gender equity in the medical community within leadership positions and in the academic world is still being discussed.

The presence of women in the practice of medicine extends back to ancient times. In India, female physicians namely  Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi, TS Kanaka, Kadambini Ganguly, Ajita Chakraborty,  Rupabai furdoonji, Muthulakshmi Reddy were some of the women doctors who left their mark in various field of medicine.

They broke all the stereotypes and emerged successful in medical field in their era. Their dreams of becoming doctor were not an easy task because in their generation men were considered superior and were given better education.Despite of many obstacles in their path, their determination, hardwork and willpower made them to achieve their goal in becoming a good doctor. They have become role models and inspired many young doctors in recent decades.

There is a vast difference in the status of women in the medical field in India as compared to the West. However, much progress has been made in the past two decades at least in the urban areas. There is a tremendous disparity in the rural and urban areas when it comes to the number of women who enter this field. The urban areas are almost on par with the western standards at present. Despite having so many women who are leaders in the field, the situation in rural India remains desolate

To promote gender equality and to bridge the gap, supportive female networks among students and practitioners should be created. Gender sensitive language and favourable working conditions should also be encouraged to eradicate sexism from workplace. Harassment to female health-care workers should be banned.

They should be given equal pay scale and better opportunities along with their male colleagues because we believe them to be just as capable and deserving. The concepts of women and men have identical skills and complement one another in their workplace have to be reinforced in their workplace for better community health care.

About the author

Ms. Bhanavath Bhanu, a 2nd year medical student from Bhaskar Medical College from India.

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