Women in Medicine: An Equality Long Overdue

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Mariana Flor Rocha Mendonça Melo is a fifth-year medical student at Tiradentes University (UNIT), 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.


Throughout history, some professions have been considered traditionally male, and such is the case with medicine. Women were forbidden to become doctors due to a patriarchal and oppressive society. The beginning of women’s entry into the medical field started effectively during the First World War, due to the need to replace those called to battle. However, the professional recognition, the salary, and the acceptance of women were still much inferior when compared to those of men.

As time went by, feminist and gender equality movements emerged and gave a voice to those who had been silenced. From then on, women started to invade the academic environment and to reach numerous medical specialties.

Currently, some specialties are dominated by women, such as dermatology, pediatrics, and endocrinology. However, women still go through situations of prejudice, especially in specialties that are still mostly male, such as orthopedics and urology. However, women have the ability to face adversity and acquire the resilience to deal with this discrimination, thus gaining the ability to overcome challenges and eliminate gaps created by gender inequality.

The trend toward female empowerment has contributed to women occupying prominent positions, not only in medicine, but in any profession. Moreover, women are increasingly showing themselves capable of taking on leadership roles and gaining recognition in their offices, meetings, and medical events around the world.

In Brazil, a higher percentage of the population is female. However, data from the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM) from 2020 indicates that men are still the majority among medical professionals, representing about 53.4%. This number has been decreasing every year, pointing towards a feminization of Brazilian medicine. In 2020, in the groups of doctors aged up to 34 years old, women are already the majority. They represent 58.5% among doctors aged up to 29 years old and are 55.3% of the doctors aged 30 to 34 years old.

Women bring a different perspective to clinical practice, since zeal and care are characteristics usually associated with women. The female perspective brings with it the ability to better see the patient as a whole, helping to deal with their emotions with more empathy and thus being able to reduce their suffering.

However, women still face prejudice. In order to deconstruct the idea that women are fragile, maternal, and delicate, women are strongly present in the surgical and emergency areas and in the development of vaccines and treatments for the current pandemic.

Much has been said about the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. However, we hardly encounter any gender perspectives of this experience. Women are occupying most of the roles within hospitals and caring for people of all ages. With this in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) are discussing the containment of the pandemic from a gender perspective, since women are most active in the fight against Covid-19 and most exposed to the virus.

The empowerment of women in medicine is a necessary path for the humanization of healthcare. The respect for women in this profession is essential for better working conditions. Moreover, the present paradigm of gender inequality only delays the development of knowledge and thus it must be dealt with so as to make gender equality in medicine a reality. Therefore, for the sake of caring for human lives in all spheres, we can no longer accept the inequality that exists in the medical field. In order to face this reality, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to work determinedly, concretely, and systematically to eliminate gender inequalities in different spheres of society.

References

  1. Em 20 anos, dobra o número de mulheres que exercem a medicina no Brasil | (cfm.org.br)
  2. AVILA, Rebeca Contrera. Formação das mulheres nas escolas de medicina. Rev. bras. educ. med.,  Rio de Janeiro ,  v. 38, n. 1, p. 142-149,  Mar.  2014 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-55022014000100019&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  24  Mar.  2021.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S0100-55022014000100019.
  3. Paridade de gênero – ONU Mulheres

About the author

Mariana Flor Rocha Mendonça Melo is a fifth-year medical student at Tiradentes University (UNIT), Brazil. She was affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations from 2016 to 2019. She was secretary of the local IFMSA Brazil UNIT committee from 2016 to 2019. She is interested in becoming an Obstetrics and Gynecologist and she is ready to work with different kinds of community. She defends women’s health and kwon the importance of improving and spreading knowledge about women ‘s rights. Also, she is passionate about Mental Health, Public and Global Health and respects the various cultures in Brazil community.

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