The hardships of career advancement for women in medicine

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Fjona Manja, a third year medical student in The Catholic University Our Lady of Good Council, Tiranë, Albania. She 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.


Who is the father of medicine? The majority would correctly answer Hippocrates. However, if I asked about Metrodora, hardly any would know that she was the first woman to write a medical textbook. Similarly, only a handful would know that the first female doctor was licensed more than 6 centuries after the first male doctor. While the first medical school was founded in 1123, Dorothea Erxleben was licensed only on June 12, 1754. These 6 centuries show how hard it was for women to study and create a career in medicine.

In the ever evolving days of the 21st century women have managed to win the right to study medicine and have even won prestigious prices for their endeavors in the medical field. Yet, it is not easy for women to reach the leading positions in medicine. In the last three decades the number of female doctors has risen steadily. According to Eurostat in 2018 the gender spilt of physicians in the 27 countries of EU was balanced. Optimistic statistics were reported from Estonia and Latvia where three quarters of all physicians were women.1 Nevertheless, the number of these female doctors to achieve leading positions is considerably lower than that of their male counterpart.

But why do women find it so hard to break the glass ceiling?

Women find it harder to be promoted because of their gender. Firstly, most of the employers think that women cannot perform well when they become mothers. Consequently, with the fear of losing their job, female doctors are left with the dilemma of returning back to work or finishing their childcare leave. On top of that the average length of paid leave in some of the top US medical schools is around 8 weeks, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed a minimum of 6 months of paid leave2. Women physicians find themselves overloaded with work and parental duties since their working environment lack programs to support caretaking or lactation.

Furthermore, women face sexual harassment whether it be from their colleagues or their patients. The mentality that men do it better and women don’t because women can’t, is still strong in many countries. Many still think that men should lead and women have to follow, even though gender has nothing to do with capabilities. Therefore, men still dominate the profession making it harder for women to thrive in leadership.

So, how can we help achieve gender equity in medicine?

First and foremost, we need to advocate for family – friendly policies. This way female physicians won’t need to choose between a career and family. In addition, we need to stop the sexual harassment and the disregard women face when they try to breakthrough in the medical field.

 Gerty Cori, Virginia Apgar and Rosalind Franklin are only some of the notable female physicians that have made discoveries that were milestones in the advancement of medicine. They prove us that women don’t need centuries to catch up to men, they only need more support.

References

About the author

Fjona Manja is a third year medical student in The Catholic University Our Lady of Good Council, Tiranë, Albania. She is a member of the Albanian Committee of Medical Students.

Being raised in a progressive environment she was always taught the ideals of gender equity. Therefore, she is really interested in the feminism and women rights movement. She is passionate about helping women advance in the medical field.

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

Here’s how to achieve growth in the Middle East and North Africa

UN Security Council condemns Taliban offensive as a blow against ‘sustainable peace’

Facebook and Google to treat Europe as the 51st State of the USA

European Solidarity Corps 2021-2027: First call for proposals to support youth volunteering activities

How music can help children with autism connect

To Bing or Not to Bing? That is the question

Gender equality: an issue much talked about but less acted upon

Terrorism and migrants: the two awful nightmares for Europe and Germany in 2016

Portugal can use its economic recovery to build up resilience

Pharmaceuticals spend millions to push TTIP while consumer groups spend peanuts

The EU Parliament slams Commission on economic governance

An economist explains the pros and cons of globalization

Protecting the front line: the healthcare of health professionals

State aid: Commission approves French scheme deferring payment by airlines of certain taxes to mitigate economic impact of coronavirus outbreak

Low productivity jobs continue to drive employment growth

“Fortress Europe”, “Pegida” and its laughing stocks

New challenge: Not going through “burnout” in times of quarantine

Mental and comportamental health in the pandemic context

An Easter Special: Social protection of migrants in Europe as seen through the eyes of European youth

Pharmaceuticals conceal drug side effects with the EU’s Court blessing

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Greenery: the miracle cure for urban living

Italy should boost investment in training for the future of work

Sustainable Finance: Commission welcomes the adoption by the European Parliament of the Taxonomy Regulation

Macro-Financial Assistance: Europe’s way to control Ukraine?

Companies can help build a more inclusive world. Here’s how

Joris in Indonesia

5 steps businesses can take to protect air quality after COVID-19

5 charts that show renewable energy’s latest milestone

Devastating storms like Hurricane Florence ‘unusual this far north’: UN weather agency

Inflammation is the fuel that feeds the cancer flame. So how do we fight back?

Digital democracy: a Swiss view on digital trust

Four in five adolescents failing to exercise for even 60 minutes a day, UN health agency warns

Gaza: deadly violence continues to escalate, top UN officials work to restore calm

This is Germany’s $45 billion, 18-year plan to move away from coal

‘Time is of the essence’ for refugees on Greek islands – UN agency

Huawei answers allegations about its selling prices

Break taboo around menstruation, act to end ‘disempowering’ discrimination, say UN experts

Can the whole world live in peace?

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

Innovations for Content Professionals at the DCX exhibition 2018 in Berlin, in association with The European Sting

EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia by six months

Business is a crucial partner in solving the mental health challenge

UN chief welcomes event reuniting families on the Korean Peninsula

Rule of Law: Commission launches infringement procedure to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court

Auditors say EU spending delivers limited value for money but the timing of their report poses questions

Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic Congo is ‘largely contained’: WHO

Mergers: Commission refers acquisition of newly created joint venture by Telefónica and Liberty Global to the UK competition authority

Brexit: visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for Europeans

Statement following the European Medicines Agency review of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca

“Decisions taken in the coming weeks will shape Europe’s experience of the internet”, Joe Mcnamee from EDRi says live from European Business Summit 2015

We must rethink and repurpose cybersecurity for the COVID-19 era

Free and secure access needed in DR Congo conflict zone to tackle Ebola – WHO

Here’s what keeps CEOs awake at night (and why it might be bad news for your next job)

President Ursula von der Leyen welcomes the first official submission of a recovery and resilience plan by Portugal

THE COMMITTEES: ‘All roads lead to the Fifth’

EU summit: step up work for recovery, and update migration and asylum system

The Bavarians threaten Berlin and Brussels with immigration crisis

EU lawmakers vote to reintroduce visas for Americans over “reciprocity principle”

EU helps tackle air pollution in Kosovo with €76.4 million

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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