Mind the Gap: Gender Equity in the Medical Field

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriela Soares Amaral, a Brazilian, 23 years old, third year medical student in Würzburg, Germany. She is 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 writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

    Women working as doctors is not new. There are enough transcripts that refer to female occupying positions as surgeons, caregivers, or what we would nowadays call obstetricians, since ancient Egypt. However, history was not always so equal or fair when it came to the role of women in society and not all society models were so open or matriarchal as ancient Egypt. In this context, it is safe to say that the will to study medicine between our female friends rose significantly in the last decades.

     According to the OECD Health Statistics (2019), 48 percent of the working doctors in 2017 were female, in 2000 only 40 Percent were. Moreover, 60.6 percent of all doctors under 35 years, while only 17.6 percent of the ones over 65 years were women (Athenahealth, 2017).  That panorama means an upcoming change in the system, as these women, mostly in a reproductive phase, still need to conciliate main household tasks with their professional life and therefore generally prefer part time jobs, despite the income difference. This is sometimes alone a cause for prejudice in the field.

    In addition to that it is important to acknowledge the fact that there are still fewer female doctors working in higher-income leadership positions “In cardiology, 82% of doctors are men. In gastroenterology and hepatology, 73% of doctors are men, and in respiratory medicine, 63% are” (BMJ, 2019). The highest percentage of women is still found in obstetrics. That is not only because of the work preferences, but it also because of the lack of representation in medical schools. Data from the American Association of Medical Colleges affirm that in 2004, in the US, only 19 Percent of the associate and full professors in medical schools were female. Also, a study, The “Gender Gap” in Authorship of Academic Medical Literature — A 35-Year Perspective, published in the NEJM in 2006, stated that in that year 30 Percent of first-authors and 20 percent of the senior-authors of publications in distinguished journals were women. This suggests that the lack of representation also exists in the research field and this may be one more cause of the difference between the status for men and women.

    In conclusion, there is the need to gradually create more working positions that are compatible and attractive to women, because earning considerably smaller gross salaries they pay proportional taxes. And as a society that is becoming increasingly older, we will need more active women per retiree. The change is already happening for itself, as in 2019 for the first time there were more female medical students than male. But it is also important that projects are created to incentivize women to become professors, searches, surgeons and therefore influence the next students to grow their path into higher positions so that in the future we have a more equal situation between both genders.

About the author

Gabriela Soares Amaral is a Brazilian, 23 years old, third year medical student in Würzburg, Germany. She comes from a medical doctors’ family and is a restless learner whose hobbies are related to music and arts in general.

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