Women in medicine: the right to gender equality

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Carolina Calandrine Duarte, a 3rd year medical student at the Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos -UNICEPLAC in Brasília, Brazil. He is 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 writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Until 2020 the synonyms found, when one searched for the word “woman” in Oxford English Dictionary, included some highly offensive words such as frail and bint. This shows how there is structural discrimination against women. As we analyse the female´s role in society and in medicine, we see that for many years women were largely treated with inequity. For centuries, they were seen only as breeders and caretakers of the home and children, and not as professionals, being excluded from the realms of science and medicine.

This point of view has been changing throughout the years due to many important women in history who fought for their rights, such as Simone de Beauvoir. Feminist movements were also essential to promote actions and inspire women globally.

Despite all the progress that was made and the increase in gender balance in the medical workforce around the world, women physicians still face difficulties. Due to domestic responsibilities, rigidity in career structures, lack of access to education, and discrimination, they represent yet only 46% in the medical comunity in the US for example, showing the gender gap that still exists. Studies show that there are many fields inside medicine where women are still substantially under-represented such as neurosurgery, orthopaedics, urology, general surgery, radiology, and others fields where professional and even patients still show prejudice and reluctance in female acceptance. Besides, it is known that, until today, there are differences not only in the way they are treated but in salary and in a greater difficulty to reach higher positions too.

A large part of the discrimination reported by women health professionals comes from historical belief, taught since our ancestors, that men are strong, fearless and confident, which women are not, and that in times of pressure they are not emotionally stable enough to solve problems and make decisions, bringing the false conception that they cannot be in lidership. However, thoughts like that should not be tolerated anymore.

According to Hillary Clinton’s quote that says that every woman is valuable and powerful, deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve their own dreams, it shows that initiatives to preserve and increase the representation of women are essential to get to the point where all ideas, opinions and rights are heard and respected, and where there is no more discrimination and differences, regardless of gender, especially in medicine.

References

  1. JEFFERSON, Laura, et al. Women in medicine: historical perspectives and recent trends. British Medical Bulletin, 8 de março de 2015. Disponível em:  http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.927.3938&rep=rep1&type=pdf. Acesso em: 20 de março de 2021.
  1. RESHMA, Jagsi, et al. Sex, role models, and specialty choices among graduates of US medical schools in 2006-2008. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 19 de Novembro de 2013. Disponível em: Sex, role models, and specialty choices among graduates of US medical schools in 2006-2008. – Abstract – Europe PMC. Acesso em: 19 de março de 2021.
  1. BONIOL, Mathieu, et al. Gender equity in the health workforce: Analysis of 104 countries. Health Workforce Working paper 1, março de 2019. Disponível em: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311314/WHO-HIS-HWF-Gender-WP1-2019.1-eng.pdf. Acesso em: 19 de mar de 2021.
  1. FLOOD, Alison. Fresh call for Oxford dictionaries to change ‘sexist’ definitions. The guardian, 3 mar de 2020. Disponível em: Fresh call for Oxford dictionaries to change ‘sexist’ definitions | Books | The Guardian. Acesso em: 19 mar de 2021.

About the author

Carolina Calandrine Duarte is a 3rd year medical student at the Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos -UNICEPLAC in Brasília, Brazil. She has always been interested in new cultures, travel and languages, is fluent in English and speaks Korean, was president of the gynecology and obstetrics league at her university for 2 years, where she was involved in several projects such as lectures, congresses and symposia. She is committed to learning, participating in academic activities, producing and inspiring people, all with the goal of being a good and empathetic professional in the future.

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