Women in leadership: the elusive victory against gender disparity in medicine

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Luiza Vieira Marconi, a twenty-year-old and currently a third year medical student at the Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde de Barretos, in the city of Barretos/São Paulo – Brazil. 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.


Since social beginnings, women have been associated with caring activities. However, even though we were recognized as born caregivers, it was only in the 20th century that feminine activities could also be understood as professional, starting with the advent of the world wars and the rise of the feminist movement. From then on, the growing feeling of revolt and the longing for cultural changes permeated several communities, leading to the inevitable feminine conquest of a wider range of fundamental human rights. Under this sense, which was in opposition to the classic patriarchy, the passing years brought gradual changes in gender stigmas, and soon women dominated the source of much of the male power: the labor market.

In this context, the assumption of the female gift to care has been highlighted in the medical sector over the last decades. The number of women who study medicine and pursue this career is increasing, but the question still remains: do gender differences in medical careers persist? A 1965 study concluded that among the women surveyed, those who did not choose medicine were justified by the inability to reconcile domestic and married life with the career. Over fifty years later, even though women choose to follow a medical vocation, it is possible to see many of them burdened by triple workloads as a result of a demanding profession and poor distribution of parental and domestic duties.

As if factors such as marriage and children were not enough, the wage gap between male and female physicians is also noteworthy. A US study from 1987-2010 found that a pay gap of up to 25.3%, even with adjusted hours worked and years of experience. Outside the practice field, research and academic centers are also affected by gender disparity.

This makes evident that even after decades and such a cultural revolution, equality is still doomed to superficiality, as women continue to carry greater social burdens and are paid less for equally complex jobs. Fortunately, medicine has become increasingly feminine, indeed. But considering the barriers of professional undervaluation (clear in professional interactions and remunerations), there is still much to be claimed for women, because, as Simone de Beauvoir once said, “it is through work that women have been reducing the distance that separated them from men, only work can guarantee them concrete independence”.

References

Lisa L. Willett, Andrew J. Halvorsen, Furman S. McDonald, Saima I. Chaudhry, Vineet M. Arora, Gender Differences in Salary of Internal Medicine Residency Directors: A National Survey, The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 128, Issue 6, 2015, Pages 659-665, ISSN 0002-9343, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.02.002.

Rossi, A S Why So Few Women Become Engineers, Doctors and Scientists. In Women and the Scientific Professions, J A Mattfeld and C G Van Aken. (Eds.), Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1965.

Seabury SA, Chandra A, Jena AB. Trends in the earnings of male and female health care professionals in the United States, 1987 to 2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Oct 14;173(18):1748-50. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.8519. PMID: 23999898.

About the author

Luiza Vieira Marconi is a twenty-year-old and currently a third year medical student at the Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde de Barretos, in the city of Barretos/São Paulo – Brazil. Member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association in Brazil (IFMSA-BRAZIL), Luiza is committed to feminist concerns and believes in the active fight for equality. 

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