Women and Medicine: A Late Story

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Leticia Lourenço Botelho, a Brazilian medical student of the Valença School of Medicine, in Rio de Janeiro. 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.

A lot has been said when it comes to discussing women’s role in Medicine, especially in the past couple of years. The unequal access throughout history is undeniable and reflects a society based on misogyny and prejudice towards women.

Through the decades, the history of women in the Medical Society has always repeated itself all over the world. Women have been facing challenges determined merely by their gender, underestimating their intellectual capacity and potential.

When analyzing the historic evolution of Medicine, it’s easy to acknowledge how women used to be excluded. During the Middle Ages, women who had any kind of involvement with medical science, were condemned to death. In the Renaissance, women’s beauty was overestimated and their intellect underestimated. The nineteenth century still considered women fit for home and procreative duties only, maintaining a relatively low percentage of female physicians. The twentieth century, on the other hand, brought the need to expand the boundaries of Medicine, due to World War One, including more women in the Medical Society1.

In Brazil, for example, the first woman to ever receive a Medical Degree was Rita Lobato Velho Lopes, in 1887, defending her thesis “Parallel between established methods of C-section” 2. The evolution of women’s participation in Medicine, in Brazil, can be confirmed analyzing the data available: In 1960, women represented only 12,99% of physicians. In 2010, 39,81%. Clearly, there’s still a lot to be done in order to keep increasing these numbers and to reach equality in the Medical field, but the improvements noted so far are a good sign that society is changing3.

Another important example of the prejudice faced by women in the 19th century is Elizabeth Blackwell. Elizabeth was the first woman in the United States to receive a Medical Degree. She was discouraged by male physicians and other students all through her academic years, reporting: “I had not the slightest idea of the commotion created by my appearance as a medical student in the little town I afterwards found that I had so shocked Geneva propriety that the theory was fully established either that I was a bad woman, whose designs would gradually become evident, or that, being insane, an outbreak of insanity would soon be apparent” 4.

            In today’s society, women occupy an important percentage in Medicine, showing an even more important inclination towards equality. Nevertheless, there are still lots of challenges to be faced in order to reach the main goal of full equality. One of the challenges yet to be faced is the role taken by women when it comes to raising families and maintaining the household. Society still assigns to women the full responsibility of their families, while male physicians do not share equally this obligation. Another challenge is the gender-related prejudice within certain specialties, such as neurology and orthopedics5.

            Thus, it can be concluded that women have been facing all kinds of prejudice through the centuries and that, now, the equality we so desperately seek for, is getting closer.


  1. Kletke PR, Marder WD, Silberger AB. The growing proportion of female physicians: implications for US physician supply. Am J Public Health 1990;80(3):300-4.
  2. Women in Medicine: A History of Achievements. (2021, March 08). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from ProDoctor: https://prodoctor.net/blog/presenca-das-mulheres-na-medicina-historia-de-conquistas/
  3. Brazilian Female Doctors Throughout History. (2013). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from Revista Bioética.
  4. History of Women in Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from The University of Alabama at Birmingham: https://www.uab.edu/medicine/diversity/initiatives/women/history
  5. Mobilos, S., Chan, M., & Brown, J. B. (2008). Women in medicine: the challenge of finding balance. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien54(9), 1285–1286.e5.

About the author

The author’s name is Leticia Lourenço Botelho, a Brazilian medical student of the Valença School of Medicine, in Rio de Janeiro. Currently, she is in the second year of college. Leticia has always loved writing, using it as a way of expressing her thoughts.

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

4 innovative renewable energy projects powering Europe’s green future

Financing economic recovery, written by United Nations Under-Secretary-General

Is your smart home as safe as you think?

45th Anniversary of the French Confederation (Confédération Nationale des Junior Entreprises)

A Europe that delivers: EU citizens expect more EU level action in future

Islamophobia is driving more US Muslims to become politically engaged, suggests report

MEPs condemn attacks on civilians, including children, in Yemen

The banks first to benefit from the new euro trillion ECB plans to print

8 fascinating and fearsome frontiers of science you should know about

Making the move to more sustainable mobility – three steps for companies

Colombia: Rights experts condemn killing of reintegrated former rebel fighter, call for respect of peace process

EU-Russia summit in the shadows of Kiev’s fumes

The Parliament sets the way for the European Banking Union

6.1 billion EUR for sustainable fisheries and safeguarding fishing communities

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Safeguarding civilians, strengthening Ebola response in DR Congo, marking Fistula Day, updates on CAR and Syria

This is how India can become the next Silicon Valley

Turkey: Commission continues humanitarian support for refugees

19th EU-China Summit: A historical advance in the Chino-European rapprochement

The woman who wanted to be treated the same as the man

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

Alternative proteins will transform food, mitigate climate change and drive profits. Here’s how

Estonia: use robust growth to improve income equality and well-being

The use of mobile technologies in Radiation Oncology: helping medical care

These countries are leading the way in green finance

Shenzhen just made all its buses electric, and taxis are next

4 eco-friendly products put sustainable spins on classic practices, from teacups to hankies

Why the future is bright for drone technology

‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ Palestinian President Abbas tells world leaders at UN Assembly

US-China trade war: Washington now wants control of the renminbi-yuan

Look Mom, even the House of Lords says the #righttobeforgotten is not right

Portuguese Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

An economist explains how to value the internet

Investing in rural women and girls, ‘essential’ for everyone’s future: UN chief

Cum-ex tax fraud scandal: MEPs call for inquiry, justice, and stronger tax authorities

Libyan authorities must shoulder the burden to support country’s ‘vulnerable’ south

COVID 19 Vaccine: A new terror or a savior for mankind?

State aid: Commission approves €150 million Austrian subordinated loan to compensate Austrian Airlines for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

The status of the Code of Medical Ethics: loading

UN Security Council offers Yemen Special Envoy ‘their full support’

Over 1 million health consultations provided in Yemen in 2019: UN migration agency

Why the ECB prepares to flood the markets with more and free of charge euro; everybody needs that now

“I believe that startups are for grown-up men, those, who have already achieved something “

Do not jeopardise future-oriented EU programmes, say EP’s budget negotiators

‘Global sisterhood’ tells perpetrators ‘time is up’ for pandemic of violence

One Hundred Years of Qipao History: from Shanghai to EU

Finland is a world leader in clean energy. Here’s what’s driving its success

Nearly four million North Koreans in urgent need, as food production slumps by almost 10 per cent

Will the Greek economy ever come back to growth?

3 important lessons from 20 years of working with social entrepreneurs

At this ‘critical moment’, UN chief urges anti-corruption conference to adopt united front

We are stronger than this pandemic (COVID-19)

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

‘Endemic’ sexual violence surging in South Sudan: UN human rights office

Public Policies for LGBT in Brazil

A faster, fairer way to retire carbon-emitting assets

Amid pandemic detours, mental health matters

Coronavirus: Commission concludes talks to secure future coronavirus vaccine for Europeans

Why hourly workers should have the same benefits as salaried ones

How do we design an inclusive energy transition?

State aid: Commission approves €300 million Austrian scheme to support organisers of events affected by coronavirus outbreak

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