Writing a new story in gender inequalities: women gaining space and respect in medicine

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Danielle Correia Furtado and Fernanda Clara da Silva, two second year medical students at Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN) in Mossoró, Brazil. They are 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The feminization of medicine has been pointed out by several researches as one of the changes with the greatest impact on the medical profession. However, this scenario was already very different from the current one. Until the 1960s, medicine was mainly exercised by men, it was only after the 1970s that medical schools became a space of greater circulation for women, gradually increasing over the 1980s and 1990s and more rapidly in the first decade of the 21st century.

Although in the past decade they have represented the majority of students in medical schools and the majority of new registered professionals, women continue to suffer a significant negative impact from sexist stereotypes and gender discrimination. Access and permanence are no longer categories of gender discrimination in the medical course, but there is still a great fragility of the achievements and the persistence of inequalities.

Although women have gained an important place in medicine, this has not eliminated gender inequality. There are still hidden segregations that permeate educational institutions; and also the permanence of a set of social determinations that give greater weight and value to men’s work than women’s work. Medical women report a significant negative impact caused by sexist stereotypes and gender discrimination during their formative years.

Subtle forms of discrimination are deeply rooted in medical culture and make men and women not on an equal footing. Gender discrimination presents itself through direct and indirect barriers. One of these inequalities was shown in the Global Report on Gender Inequality, released by the World Economic Forum in late 2015, which points out the gender pay gap. As in the case of Brazil, in which to perform the same job, with the same functions and qualifications, women earn 41% less.

Such results signal the importance of recognizing that experiences and subjectivities are subject to change and of integrating the problematization of dominant discourses into formal curricula, facilitating greater equality of gender, ethnicity and social class. In such a way, it is necessary that gender inequality be debated still in medical universities to try to alleviate the problem from its base: academic training.

For there to be a breakdown of prejudice, inequality and the inferiorization of women, it is necessary to have a subject that addresses the “History of Medicine”, in which it is debated about the first medical schools, the historical landmark in which the woman passed to be accepted in that environment. In addition, it is important that statistical data are also jobs, such as the small number of women in surgery and in leadership positions and the wage gap, for example. It is important to understand if patriarchy and sexism are part of sociocultural factors that bar women’s rights from being characters in their own medical history.


ÁVILA, R.C. Formação das mulheres nas escolas de medicina. Revista Brasileira de Educação Médica, v.38, n.1, p.142-149, jan/mar. 2014. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1590/S0100-55022014000100019. Access on 21 Sep. 2020.

SANTOS, D.T.R. Simone de Beauvoir e Judith Butler: aproximações e distanciamentos e os critérios da ação política. 2015. 102 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Filosofia) – Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Guarulhos (SP). Available from: http://repositorio.unifesp.br/handle/11600/49071. Access on 21 Sep. 2020.

ASSIS, P.; KREUGER, M.S.; OROFINO, M.R. Análise dos fatores que levam mulheres médicas a não optarem por especialidades cirúrgicas. Revista de Medicina, São Paulo, v. 99, n. 3, p. 230-235, 2020. ISSN: 1679-9836. DOI: https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1679-9836.v99i3p230-235. Available from: https://www.revistas.usp.br/revistadc/article/view/150416. Access on 22 Sep. 2020.

About the authors

Danielle Correia Furtado and Fernanda Clara da Silva are both second year medical students at Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (UERN) in Mossoró, Brazil. They are member of Local Board of the International Federation of Medical Student’s Associations (IFMSA). Both believe in a world in which education is capable of changing the world, especially inequalities.

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