Bridging the Gender Gap: Necessity and its Relevance in Today’s World

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Pratima Jasti, a 2nd year medical student at MBSS in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Bhubaneswar. 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.


Our world has been dominated by primarily by one gender for centuries and gender inequality has been an important topic of discussion in today’s era. However, gender equality still seems out of reach, and given the current rate of change, we will see the gender gap close in another 100 years[1]. Women are fighting for their rights in every sector, may it be job, law, health, or society in general, and gender inequality is closely linked to health[2]; women face different challenges while seeking good medical advice due to various socio-economic reasons.

The lack of awareness on the influences of gender on health can contribute to substandard female patient care[3]. There are two types of gender biases in medicine: gender stereotype, which is defined as the clinically unjustified difference of treatment between female and male patients; and gender blindness, which is defined by the inability to recognize differences when they are clinically pertinent[4]. Gender stereotypes and blindness may lead to medically inappropriate management of health problems, and these are rooted in society’s gender roles and representation, an example of which is the fact that in most of the initial research studies men were included as participants, and results were extrapolated to women[3]. Medical students should get themselves aware of this stereotype and should include both women and men participants equally in future research to understand the needs of women and try to eliminate medical gender bias in their daily practice.

Doctors and medical students are trying to bring awareness about women’s health, the facilities they have, and their rights by conducting health camps. They should ensure that it also reaches socioeconomically weaker communities like tribes, villages, migrants, and refugees, which don’t have access to various facilities and information. While most medical camps focus on maternal needs, equal emphasis should be placed on catering to the whole range of women’s health needs as well as mental wellness which is equally important as day-to-day gender bias is itself a major contributor to mental distress among women. These camps should encourage females to talk about their problems, education, and job actively.

Although women’s participation has increased in the health sector, their representation in leadership positions is still less. As a female medical student, people suggest me to take OBG, Dermatology, Psychiatry, etc. because women are more comforting to patients in these fields. It may be true, but they should also encourage females to take specialities like surgery or orthopaedics which are classically male-dominated fields. Improving mentorship and targeted funding for female students can help them have equal opportunities to that of their male counterparts. Medical students should ensure equal participation in normal daily activities, both formal and informal, as it will help efface the mentality of gender discrimination.‌ ‌Emphasizing on such issues in today’s medical students will result in the next generation of doctors being more aware of pre-existing biases.

Medical students should discuss more about their experience on this topic as it will improve understanding of the problem. These issues should not be just discussed among professionals and but also among the socio-economically challenged strata of society resulting in fruitful implementations of reforms. Improving gender awareness among medical students will help fill gaps in women’s rights along with improving health sector as a whole. As medical professionals are directly involved with the patients and know their basic needs and problems, they should be more involved in making strong policies and influence government decisions to bring positive change in the society.

References

  1. https://www.un.org/en/un75/women_girls_closing_gender_gap
  2. https://www.who.int/southeastasia/news/detail/07-03-2020-achieve-gender-equality-in-this-generation
  3. Rrustemi, I., Locatelli, I., Schwarz, J. et al. Gender awareness among medical students in a Swiss University. BMC Med Educ 20, 156 (2020).
  4. Hamberg K. Gender bias in medicine. Womens Health (London, England). 2008;4(3):237–43.

About the author

Pratima Jasti is a 2nd year medical student at MBSS in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Bhubaneswar. Her aim is to reach out to as many people as possible and impact their lives in a positive manner.

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