Gender gap in medicine: from when, why and until when?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ludmila Cavalcante Agra, a 19 year-old medical student at the Federal University of Campina Grande and is part of the IFMSA-Brazil UFCG Committee. 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.

       The gender gap is something existing in the daily life of the entire construction of humanity, due to a history which, throughout the world, was based on patriarchy, in which the division of activities between the sexes present in ancient societies, imposed a cultural standard that separated and limited the roles experienced by many women, restricting them to the maternal, culinary and heir-providing role.  In this sense, there was a cultural construction, very visible in Brazil and in the world, in which science and medicine became something restricted to the male public, which was seen in many universities at the beginning of the first registered medical courses.

      Over the centuries, changes were observed in the aforementioned reality, when great women, such as Gerty Cori- born in the Czech Republic, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1947 and responsible for major advances in Diabetes- and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi – born in France, virologist, descriptor of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 1983 before its pandemic state-, began to develop research legally, although without much incentive, and to occupy very important roles in the discovery of pathologies, treatments and medical advances. 

      In this sense, it is important to point out that according to the Faculty of Medicine, in the area of health, the wage gap between men and women did not change between the years 1987 and 2010, demonstrating one of the gaps between genders. Based on this, it is observed a great contradiction of this distinction, considering that, according to research conducted by the University of São Paulo, much of basic health – primordial in the care and operation of any health system – is occupied by women, demonstrating that these in addition to being fully trained, are more interested in primary health.

     Finally, it is important to emphasize that in recent years a “feminization” of medicine has been noted, in which a predominance of women in the university of medicine is observed, demonstrating both a cultural advance that breaks down gender barriers in health, as well as the need to equalize research incentives, salaries and the appreciation of women in this area. This is unquestionable, since women often perform better in the formation of multidisciplinary teams and in the diagnosis of patients, breaking any prejudice that associates efficiency to males, which is still propagated through gender hierarchy during academic training.

      Therefore, it is necessary that the gender gap in medicine is fought and filled, as there is no scientific precept that justifies this reality, but rather, a patriarchal cultural construction that has tried to restrict, historically, the place of women to environments outside of science, diminishing the capacity and knowledge of thousands who have made hundreds of transformations inside and outside of medicine. We must fight for great names, such as Nise da Silveira – revolutionary of humanized psychiatric treatment in Brazil – not to be atypical, but constant and throughout the world, because all women are able to build, conquer and discover inside and outside of medicine, being the equity of opportunities essential for this and, consequently, for closing the gender gap in medicine.


About the author

Ludmila Cavalcante Agra is a 19 year-old medical student at the Federal University of Campina Grande and is part of the IFMSA-Brazil UFCG Committee. Her story includes several moments of struggle for equality and against speeches that attack Human Rights. She is enthusiastic about literature, cinematography, history and medicine for as long as she can remember. She is interested in the area of women’s rights, being a great admirer of the trajectory of the women who have allowed her to be here today.


  1. I like this article, We cannot deny the role of women in society, as they have a great and influential role in society, thanks for sharing

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