Women Win in the West

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Christopher Maatouk, an American/Lebanese medical student at the Lebanese University. 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.

The more you go West, the more women tend to dominate the medical field from medical students to doctors to nurses. In 2019, 50.5% of U.S. medical students were women. In the EU, women make up to 75.7% of the healthcare workers.

On the contrast, the more you go East, the less you’re likely to witness any equilibrium between male and female medical doctors. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, women only make up 35% of physicians, compared to 39% in South East Asia, 41% in the Western Pacific Region. For example, they make up only 20% of physicians in Japan. However, they outnumber men as nurses all around the world.

One could make the argument that the West has, more or less, let go of its past stances on sex and race and traditional societal norms whereas the East has been more attached to a more traditional school of thought. At the end of the day, though, one would ask what the role of medical students is in accelerating women’s rights.

Speak up against demeaning comments. Let’s face it, although no one enjoys being the oddball, it’s even odder to stay silent when hearing a demeaning comment made in the intent to keep societal norms at the expense of having equal opportunity. Being silent only creates an echo chamber where the same demeaning comment is heard over and over again in the minds of children and adults alike. In more Eastern countries, for e.g. in the Middle East, this might ingrain the idea that women should stay at home or not aspire to leading societal and academic roles – therefore, even if the door was open to men and women alike to enter the medical field, women would feel far less enthusiasm and/or courage to take the chance.

Challenge ideas in yourself and in the society you live in. Science is all about questioning what you know, double and triple checking if need be, revisiting your earlier conclusions in the wake of new information and so on and so forth. Listen to what people have to say about women being in medicine and, without any confirmation bias, analyze the rational behind the idea and decrypt its potential consequences and ponder on its merits. Should you find a certain idea flawed, dig into the reason why it came to be, why people still believe that and fact check everything.

It’s easy for a society to simply wish it had equal opportunities and equal rights among all its people. It’s much more efficient for a society to grab the bull by the horns in order to make a change. The more the years pass, the more we right the wrongs of the past. As medical students, we have an unspoken role to treat our colleagues with the same level or respect as our future patients and to close the gaps that keep us away from one another.

About the author

Christopher Maatouk is an American/Lebanese medical student at the Lebanese University, writer and platform developer for the Lebanese national mental health application Stronger Mind. He strives to shatter societal taboos and address the issues we face so as to create a more wholesome environment where everyone has a chance to thrive.

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