Feminisation of medicine in Brazil

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rafaela Teixeira Honório, 4th year medical students at Barretos School of Health Sciences Dr. Paulo Prata (FACISB), Brazil. Rafaela is affiliated to 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

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949). Become a woman in a patriarchal society is very difficult, always seen as inferior to man, was born to breed, take care of the home and children; not that it makes them less women, but they want more than that. What they want is to become free, empowered and with a voice in society, owners and worthy of their choices.

In medicine, women’s struggles have always been intense and still continue so that they have their space and due recognition, since the medical field was known to be predominantly male. In Brazil, it was only after 1870 that women were able to attend higher education institutions and in the middle of 1879 the first woman entered a medical school(1)

According to the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine (CFM), currently 46.6% of those enrolled in the council are women. Despite the significant increase in women in the medical field, there is still a struggle and gender inequality in the profession. The most notorious and hierarchical positions are still mainly occupied by men (2).

Since university, curricular structures are designed for men, excluding the female life cycle that has an important milestone for many women, motherhood. To achieve professional success, many women need to give up motherhood, especially at the beginning of their careers, as this is the ideal physiological period to be a mother. In addition to taking care of their children, women remain overwhelmed with domestic chores and are unable to reconcile or dedicate themselves entirely to the profession, as men do.

With the feminization of medicine, there is a preference for some clinical areas such as pediatrics, dermatology and gynecology. This can cause a deficits in some áreas, such as surgery, orthopedics and cardiology, which are mostly occupied by men (3). However, there is little incentive for residency programs to accept women for these areas, mainly due to social underestimation and female life cycle.

Prejudice rooted in patriarchal society gives women far more prestige to their aesthetic beauty than to their intellectual capacity. As a result, many women are humiliated and are not heard in their work environments, sometimes underestimated by the patients themselves, without having the same opportunities, they almost never occupy important positions within medicine, which discourages other women. Gender equality in medicine and women’s empowerment are necessary, and by making women heard and their skills recognized, they may be free to make personal choices such as getting married and having children without their choosing interfering with their career. We need women who are a reference for other women and who are thus strong and empowered in their careers and personal life!


1. Scheffer MC, Cassenote AJF. A feminização da medicina no Brasil. Rev Bioética. 2013;21. Steren dos Santos T. Gênero e carreira profissional na Medicina. In: MULHER E TRABALHO. Porto Alegre: Revista Estudos de Planejamento; 2004.

2. Steren dos Santos T. Gênero e carreira profissional na Medicina. In: MULHER E TRABALHO. Porto Alegre: Revista Estudos de Planejamento; 2004. Franco T, dos Santos EG. Mulheres e cirurgiãs. Rev Col Bras Cir. 2010;37(1).

3. Franco T, dos Santos EG. Mulheres e cirurgiãs. Rev Col Bras Cir. 2010;37.

About the author

Rafaela Honório is a fourth-year medical student at the Faculty of Health Sciences of Barretos DR. Paulo Prata-FACISB, Brazil. It is an affiliate of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). She is part of the academic league of pneumology and sleep disorders, gynecology and obstetrics and cancerology. She wants to follow the clinical area of ​​medicine and believes that through humanized medicine we can put ourselves in the place of the other and see what causes pain and suffering, offering greater care than physiological and healing with empathy and compassion.

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