The feminization of medicine in Brazil and the current need to combat gender stereotypes in relation to medical specialties

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Beatriz Alvarez Mattar, a medical student at Faculdade Evangélica Mackenzie do Paraná, Brazil and Ms. Alicia Batista de Almeida Barbos, a medical student at Universidade Estadual do Centro Oeste do Paraná. They are affiliated with 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.

In these first 20 years of the 21st century, it is undeniable that the so-called feminization of medicine was a reality in industrialized countries, which represents one of the biggest changes in the medical profession. In developing countries, such as Brazil, this trend repeats. Results show, since 2009, there are more women than men among the new doctors registered, although, among working professionals, men still predominate. This representativeness, however, is not present mainly in the surgical specialties and Orthopedics and Traumatology, considered as traditionally masculine.

The growing female participation in medicine is a reflection of their greater entry into Brazilian medical universities, with the number of women entering being higher than men for more than 12 years. There is also a projection of balance in the population structure of the profession between genders until 2028, with women already being the majority among the youngest: 58.5% in the group up to 29 years old and 55.3% in the range of 30 to 34 years old. Besides, they are the majority in five of the six specialties considered basic: Pediatrics (70.0%), Gynecology and Obstetrics (51.5%), Internal Medicine (54.2%), Family and Community Medicine (54.2 %), and Preventive Medicine (50.3%).

However, the 2020 rates of Medical Demography in Brazil, in which they analyze the 55 medical specialties in the country, women represent a majority in only 19 of them. In addition, they are an absolute minority in specialties considered to be more masculine – as they are associated with the need for greater strength and physical resistance, longer training, and the demand for greater time availability – which is the case of Urology (2.3%), Orthopedics and Traumatology (6.5%), Neurosurgery (8.8%) and Thoracic Surgery (10.4%). These data demonstrate the difficulty of dissociating the profession from patriarchy and the supposed “female nature”, which considers the “ethics of care”, close to the performance of women, and the “ethics of justice”, typically male. This is due to the multiple influences the process of choosing a specialty suffers, including from social bases of origin that can project in the profession a supposed domestic space for the woman, promoting this gender disparity in several areas, mainly in the 13 surgical areas of medical residency.

Therefore, despite the feminization of medicine, the perpetuation of oppression over female doctors is still systemic. It is a consequence of social and institutional practices that act to encourage, sometimes unintentionally, gender stereotypes that hinder women’s access to areas of higher remuneration and social recognition. Thus, to defend women from this mentality, new theoretical contributions from bioethics are necessary to understand historical changes and to avoid the imbalances of power that exist throughout society. Based on critical bioethics, the inclusion of gender indicators in medical demography studies may offer a better overview of the asymmetries in force in the exercise of the medical profession.


SCHEFFER, M. et al., Demografia Médica no Brasil 2020. São Paulo, SP: FMUSP, CFM, 2020. 312 p. ISBN: 978-65-00-12370-8

About the authors

Beatriz has been a student at Faculdade Evangélica Mackenzie do Paraná since 2019. She is a current resident of Curitiba (Brazil) and has been affiliated to IFMSA Brazil FEMPAR since the beginning of 2020.

Alicia has been a student at Universidade Estadual do Centro Oeste do Paraná since 2020. She currently resides in Guarapuava (Brazil) and participates in medical humanities initiatives.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Public Health equality in a trench

10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Long-term EU budget: It is not possible to do more with less, say MEPs

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

These tech start-ups are changing what it means to farm

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50

How to outsmart bias when you’re recruiting

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Haitian Foreign Minister calls for development reboot to close ‘striking gap’ between promises and action on ending poverty

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger

Why we need a blockchain bill of rights

Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

How 3 MENA business leaders are building resilient companies post-COVID-19

Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

COVID vaccination campaign. What are the challenges?

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, on the announcement to postpone the COP26

EU and US take decisive step to end aircraft dispute

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

We need tech solutions that value human interaction more than ever

Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

London wants to treat violent crime like a disease

Cybersecurity Act: build trust in digital technologies

MasterCard @ MWC14: Innovation in times of regulatory uncertainty

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

From battlefields to boardrooms: 3 steps to building high-morale teams

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

How COVID-19 might help us win the fight against climate change

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

5 urgent actions in the fightback against ransomware

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 5 lessons from innovative schools around the world

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Commission disburses €14.1 billion under SURE to 12 Member States

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

UN study projects $32 billion loss for UK post no-deal Brexit

One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s