Brazilian female community and its gender gap

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Joana Tamy Hara, 21 years old, a third year medical student at UniCesumar, Maringá, Brazil and Ms. Gabriela B. Oliveira, 21 years old, a third year medical student at Universidade Positivo, Curitiba, 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

At first sight, the portrait of Thomas Eakins, The Agnew Clinic from 1889, seems like a regular class of anatomy back in the time. The painting shows doctors lecturing an audience formed only by men. There is a single woman in the scenario, a subordinate at the right corner of the artwork, assisting a doctor known as the bearer of knowledge. For a long time, medicine was a department monopolized by white and wealthy men. People who differed from this pattern were excluded. However, this set of circumstances has changed throughout the decades.

In between the 19th and 20th century, due to the raising of feminists and abolitionists movements, it was achievable to include women in medicine. In 1909, Maria Odília was the first black female doctor graduated in Brazil. Considering her – and so many others – long and hard work, doors were opened so contemporary women could follow through with the profession.

Nevertheless, sexism is still rooted and normalized into society, which makes many women have their capacities doubted while performing their duties as doctors. We, female medicine students, feel that disparity of treatment. During consults, we are often mistaken as ancillaries or been asked for an ‘actual’ male doctor. Meanwhile, none of our male colleagues has received this kind of approach. From prejudiced comments to refusal of employment driven by the fear of a pregnant employee, lots of trammels gets in the way of women’s medical career. There is a great deal of pressure for them to prove themselves to be fully capable of practicing medicine, as if their diploma and experience alone were not enough. Women have their family planning constantly questioned during their lives, they are imputed to an impasse: choose between family and career. Such choice is not expected from male workers since, historically, the double work journey belongs to women.

In Brazil, according to the research Demografia Médica 2018 made by Faculdade de Medicina de São Paulo (USP), the quantity of doctors increased significantly in the last decades, with an emphasis on the growth of female medics. The study shows that women represent 45.6% of the professionals, and they are majority in at least 18 specialties. Even so, we’re still facing an abyss between female doctors and the leadership chairs, which are mostly occupied by men. Besides that, for black and trans women working in medicine there is an even bigger struggle to conquer recognition and equality. For these women to achieve headship becomes an even further horizon, since it comes to light racism and gender identity discrimination. During our academic life, among our class of 200 students, none of them is a black female student.

It  is undeniable that, even if more women achieve their own place in medicine, there is still the necessity of overcoming racial and normative gender roles so that equality can be a reality for all women.


Sheffer M, Cassenote A, Guilloux AGA, Miotto BA, Mainardi GM. Demografia Médica no Brasil. São Paulo: FMUSP, CFM, Cremesp; 2018. Available in

About the authors

Joana Tamy Hara, 21 years old, is a third year medical student at UniCesumar, Maringá, Brazil. She is currently the local director of communication and marketing of IFMSA Brazil Unicesumar and a member at the Academic League of Family Medicine and Community (LAMFaC). She is especially interested in women’s and children’s health.

Gabriela B. Oliveira, 21 years old, is a third year medical student at Universidade Positivo, Curitiba, Brazil. She is a frequent participant of IFMSA Brazil events. She specifically is interested in research and extension projects and she intends to specialize in gynaecology and obstetrics.

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