The feminisation of medicine and persistence of stereotypes

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Heloisa Maria Perez Santos, a third year medical student and Ms. Pietra Cavalhero Alves, a second year medical student at Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde de Barretos, Brazil. 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 writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In several studies, the feminization of medicine has been indicated as one of the changes that most impact the medical profession. Even though, in the last decade, woman represent the majority of medical school vacancies and most of the new registrations in the RCM, they still suffer negative impacts due to the existence of sexist stereotypes and gender discrimination.


What is called “man” and “woman” is not only a product of biological sexuality, but also of social relations based on different structures of power, given that, in a political-economic dimension, there is, on the one hand, the division between paid productive work and unpaid reproductive and domestic work and, on the other hand, there is a division within paid work between better professionalized and paid occupations, dominated by men, and less specialized and underpaid occupations, dominated by women.

The reproductive capacity of women influences thoughts such as that women should seek more flexible specializations to reconcile with family life. Therefore, motherhood is the first visible dilemma in the career path of women, especially when it coincides with the peak of their professional productivity, between thirty and forty years of age. Although it is unusual for doctors to abandon their careers to care for their children, what is expected is that they will choose working conditions compatible with their new reality and this implies the choice of medical residencies that fit the new situation and places that offer resources to develop your family.

Studies indicate that, in addition to the reproductive issue, which includes the reduced availability of time and the difficulty of coordinating professional practices with family life, the need for greater strength and resistance are also among the main reasons that keep women away from certain specialties, especially the surgical ones and those that attend urgency and emergency, like orthopedics, which tend to be better paid and in which men predominate. In this sense, the choice of Brazilian woman doctors is for basic specialties over surgical ones, since, in general surgery, their representativeness is low.

This higher incidence of women in basic specialties is evident in Brazil, seeing that they are the majority in five of the six specialties considered basic: Pediatrics (70.0%), Gynecology and Obstetrics (51.5%), Clinical Medicine (54. 2%), Family and Community Medicine (54.2%) and Preventive Medicine (50.3%). They are also the majority in Endocrinology and Metabology, Medical Genetics, Hematology and Hemotherapy, Homeopathy, Infectious Diseases and Pathology. Men, on the other hand, represents more than 80% in 13 of the 53 specialties, including nine surgical specialties. Of the six specialties in which men are 90.0% or more, four are surgical, thus showing the persistence of divergence between genders.

So, as much as the progressive decrease in gender differences is evident due to the removal of barriers that prevent women from having the same access as men to education, job opportunities and social benefits, there are still sexist stereotypes and gender discrimination that generate impasses to guarantee gender equity in the field of health.

Reference:

1.   SCHEFFER, Mário César; CASSENOTE, Alex Jones Flores. A feminização da medicina no Brasil. Rev. Bioét.,  Brasília ,  v. 21, n. 2, p. 268-277,  Aug.  2013 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1983-80422013000200010&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  24  Mar.  2021.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S1983-80422013000200010.

2.      AVILA, Rebeca Contrera. Formação das mulheres nas escolas de medicina. Rev. bras. educ. med.,  Rio de Janeiro ,  v. 38, n. 1, p. 142-149,  Mar.  2014 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-55022014000100019&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  24  Mar.  2021.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S0100-55022014000100019.

About the authors

Heloisa Maria Perez Santos is a third year medical student in Brasil, at Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde de Barretos – Dr. Paulo Prata.

She is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) in which she participated and helped in the organization of some projects. Also, she has a scientific initiation in progress.

She likes to research, learn and develop knowledge. Academically, she is interested in general surgery and cardiology.

Pietra Cavalhero Alves is a second year medical student in Brazil, at Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde de Barretos.

She, besides the interest in general surgery and neurology , believes that social inclusion and gender equity are required resources to reach humanization in the healthy area.

Also, she is interested in learning and developing knowledge.

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

Top UN rights official urges transparent probe into Khashoggi disappearance

Neither side stands to benefit in US-China trade spat, UN says

Questions and Answers on issues about the digital copyright directive

EP President calls for emergency assistance to migrants stranded on Open Arms boat

Women’s rights face global pushback from conservativism, fundamentalism – UN experts warn

Team Europe: €34 billion disbursed so far to tackle COVID-19 in partner countries

Here’s why China’s trade deal with Mauritius matters

Data marketplaces can transform economies. Here’s how

Eurozone: Even good statistics mean deeper recession

Primary Care: a way to provide Palliative Care in Universal Health Coverage

To solve the climate crisis, we need an investment revolution

Creating shared value: an opportunity and challenge for entrepreneurship

Bulgaria: MEPs call for EU values to be fully and unconditionally respected

JADE President opens JADE Spring Meeting 2014

Being blinded by labels stops social change. Art helps us see a better future

As threats to IoT devices evolve, can security keep up?

Innovation and entrepreneurship can cut waste and deliver the circular economy

EU Budget 2020 conciliation talks suspended

Global immunization is having its annual check-up. What can we learn?

UN cooperation with League of Arab States ‘pivotal’, UN chief tells Security Council

EU Budget 2019 to focus on young people

Three experts on why eradicating plastic pollution will help achieve gender equality

Berlin wants to break South’s politico-economic standing

This is where teachers are most (and least) respected

Understanding the gender gap in the Global South

European Parliament approves new copyright rules for the internet

Chile ups foreign bribery enforcement but flawed case resolutions are insufficient to ensure transparency and accountability

India’s economy is an ‘elephant that is starting to run’, according to the IMF

What will Germany look like after the next election?

Half the world’s population is still offline. Here’s why that matters

As G7 calls time on coal, have you checked your supply chain?

Campaign kicks off with High-level Event on #FairInternships

Could 2021 be a turning point for forests and climate change?

New UN Syria envoy pledges to work ‘impartially and diligently’ towards peace

The sustainable fashion revolution is well underway. These 5 trends prove it

Arrest of three Libyans wanted for grave crimes ‘would send strong and necessary message’ to victims, urges top Prosecutor

Rule of Law mechanism applies without further delay as of 1 January, MEPs stress

Indonesia has a plan to deal with its plastic waste problem

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Yemen: ‘A great first step’ UN declares as aid team accesses grain silo which can feed millions

Using CO2 as an industrial feedstock could change the world. Here’s how

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

MEPs call for the protection of fundamental values in the EU and worldwide

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

WHO chief underscores need to address climate change following visit to Bahamas

After the George Floyd protests, what next for racial justice in the US?

80,000 youngsters at risk in DRC after forcible expulsion from Angola: UNICEF

Don’t take African generosity towards refugees for granted, says UN refugee chief

Humanitarian action: New outlook for EU’s global aid delivery challenged by COVID-19

Food choices today, impact health of both ‘people and planet’ tomorrow

From DIY editing to matchmaking by DNA: how human genomics is changing society

How global tech can drive local healthcare innovation in China

Here’s why the tech sector could be the next target for Chinese investment in Africa

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Artificial Intelligence raises ethical, policy challenges – UN expert

The future of manufacturing is smart, secure and stable

European Semester Autumn Package: Bolstering inclusive and sustainable growth

Can the world take the risk of a new financial armageddon so that IMF doesn’t lose face towards Tsipras?

GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa: Rise of the Digital Citizen, Kigali 16 – 18 July 2019, in association with The European Sting

Universal Health Coverage will ‘drive progress’ on 2030 Development Agenda

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

%d bloggers like this: