Understanding gender equality surrounding leadership positions in medicine

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Vinícius de Oliveira Viana Soares, a 4th year medical student at UniBH, Brazil. He 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.


Gender-based violence has been recorded in countless situations throughout history. Traditions dictated that the husband was the provider of the home and that the woman should be responsible for the house and the children. The few women who ventured into the professional market were frowned upon, underpaid and worked without labor and constitutional protection measures. In the context of medicine, the twentieth century was markedly constituted by a male universe corroborating the gender inequality that persisted for many years.

In recent years there has been a feminization of Brazilian medicine, with a significant increase in female students. Analyzing the population of doctors in activity, women are already the majority in the age group up to 29 years of age, a statistical inversion that will cover more age groups in some years. These facts demonstrate a recent removal of barriers that prevented women from accessing education and professional legitimacy. However, the spaces of action in medicine still present a segregation of genders. While women are the majority in primary care, pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry and dermatology, men are more present in the surgical and emergency areas, such as orthopedics and urology, and also in ​​hospital administration.

In general, studies point to an exponential growth in the number of women in the labor market and in management positions in companies, even if without equal pay. Analyzing the data within a medical corporate environment, the number of women in leadership positions is less than that of their male peers. In addition to occupying fewer managerial positions, women take longer to occupy commanding positions and valued positions. The lack of confidence in women’s ability to lead requires greater personal effort and investment in their careers, which is being gradually achieved.

Thus, the next step will be to see an increase in the number of women in leadership and management positions in the medical professional area. Studies show that female leadership is based on more democratic and interpersonal oriented behavior. Medical women conduct preventive actions better, adapt more easily to the functioning and leadership of multidisciplinary health teams and optimize the use of resources, as they are less inclined to incorporate unnecessary technologies. In addition, they serve populations more adequately in contexts of vulnerability and respond to situations that require an understanding of cultural singularities and the individual preferences of patients.

It is perceived that women faced obstacles and discrimination in the world of work and demonstrated efficiency to be recognized as professionals capable of taking on leadership positions. This means that the education and professional engagement of women, coupled with their behavioral leadership patterns, are establishing a new order of the sexual division of labor by changing course, in the direction of greater equity.

About the author

Vinícius de Oliveira Viana Soares is a 4th year medical student at UniBH, Brazil. He has a degree in Physical Education and a Master’s degree in Sport Sciences at UFMG. He also has a postgraduate degree in business administration from FGV. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting.

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