“If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.” – Elizabeth Blackwell

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Mandache Mădălina Elena, a fourth-year medical student in Craiova, Romania. 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 definition of bias states as following: ”the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing unfairly, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment”. Women, for a long time now, have been part of the groups being, unfortunately, opposed. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. 

People have consciously or unconsciously attributed certain stereotypes or attitudes towards women. The most alarming thing about this gender bias in healthcare and medical education is that we have no place to mention accountability. I believe there is no question that gender discrimination poses a valid threat to medical healthcare professionals’ learning, education, career progress and emotional well-being. Even though doctors, nurses and all the other professionals have an active duty to create and sustain a discrimination-free environment, gender gap in medicine is still an ongoing fight.

The leaders of this fight are none other than the women that occupy the authority positions in healthcare. Even though significantly less in numbers than men, they are the first change in closing the gender gap in medicine. In the medical field women account for 70% of the workforce, but hold only 25% of senior roles. (1) Even so, this 25% is the inspiration needed for the younger generation. They represent the “We can”. And to not be misunderstood, this effort should not and is not only made by women. Plenty loud male voices are advocating for this change, which will happen sooner or later.

Many things need to change in order to achieve this equity between genders in medicine. From the medical students being the starting point of discrimination (2) to the earning gap, that is an existing and real problem in all the regions of the world (3), active voices have started turning the gears in the system that can help us achieve an equitable sociey regardless of gender, race, colour, religion or any other characteristic that is part of a person’s unicity in the world. 

This perhaps distant but achievable world will be the outcome and accomplishment of all the people who have played a role in this.  From as early as the 16th century with infamous names such as Pocahontas and Anne Hutchinson to the now-famous admonition of the 18th century “remember the ladies” that the Founding Fathers put in their new laws due to Abigail Smith Adams, women’s history was, is and will continue to be remarkable. The 21st century just started and it is now our job to take even a modest step in helping to close the gap. No matter how little, always dream big. Be brave! “Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” – Malala Yousafzai.

Resources:

  1. Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce – Human Resources for Health Observer – Issue No. 24 (English, French)
  2. Nora LM, McLaughlin MA, Fosson SE, Stratton TD, Murphy-Spencer A, Fincher RM, German DC, Seiden D, Witzke DB. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment in medical education: perspectives gained by a 14-school study. Acad Med. 2002 Dec;77(12 Pt 1):1226-34. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200212000-00018. PMID: 12480632.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Table 18: Median Usual Weekly Earnings of Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers, By Detailed Occupation and Gender, 2018 Annual Averages (Numbers in Thousands),.” Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. 2019 Dec;

About the author

Mandache Mădălina Elena is a fourth-year medical student in Craiova, Romania. Passionated about both medical education and women empowerment, she has volunteered in the Standing Committee on Medical Education (SCOME) since her first contact with medical school. Her desire to improve herself allowed her to go from Local (Craiova Medical Students’ Society) to National (Romanian Federation of Medical Students’ Associations – FASMR) to the SCOME Regional Assistant for Europe in IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations).

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