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The Road to Gender Equality in Medicine

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ghada Ali youssef, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. Ghada Ali youssef

    Ghada Ali youssef Golden Member

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    As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s hard to ignore how traditional gender roles come into play. Since the first turkey dinner, men were the ones who hunted and caught the meal while women prepared and served the food. Though many of these gender roles exist today, things are becoming more balanced in all areas of society—even in the traditionally male-dominated field of medicine.

    While we certainly have a ways to go, the medical profession is beginning to see greater gender equality in areas like medical school enrollment, physician employment, and medical research. Below we’ll discuss some of the strides we’ve taken, as well as the challenges that still lay before us:

    Gender equality in medical school enrollment
    Perhaps the most hopeful area of improvement in medicine has been medical school enrollment. After all, there cannot be an increase of female physicians without encouraging more women to become doctors in the first place. This year has shown the largest increase in female applicants since 2006, creating a near 50/50 balance of men and women medical students. In 2004-2005, women made up 47.1% of medical school graduates, and that number continues to climb.

    Despite this progress, there was also a decline in the overall percentage of females who applied for medical school this year compared to last. Of course, this could not be all bad—experts speculate this could be due to women pursuing careers in science other than medicine. But whatever the cause, it’s motivating colleges and medical schools to encourage women to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    Gender equality in physician employment
    Perhaps due to the efforts made on the educational level, women represent nearly one-third of physicians in the US alone. According to MedScape, “An ever-increasing proportion of women in medical school indicates that female physicians will continue to move toward parity with male physicians—at least in numbers.

    Despite the strides made in overall employment levels, there are still gender issues within an organization, which make it hard for these women to thrive once in the system. Generally speaking, women physicians are still the victims of harassment and gender bias in the workplace. As a result, they experience lower levels of confidence, job satisfaction, and even feel excluded from social events.
    An organization called Women in Academic Medicine (WAM) suggests the best way for females to overcome these obstacles is to help themselves, establishing a mentorship program and learning from the top female physicians in the field. These setbacks become setups for success when confronted proactively.

    Gender equality in medical research
    Another area that warrants attention, though less public, is gender equality in medical research. Though researchers strive to be objective in their data, “scientists who were trained in the 80s or 90s learned to conduct research online in men, believing the results were translatable to women.” This brings up an interesting paradox—though we must strive for gender equality in medicine, this does not mean ignoring our anatomical differences and biological needs.

    Though females are still fighting to make up half the physician population, there is no doubt that females comprise half of the population as a whole. Thus, fighting for gender equality within the system will also benefit clients outside the system who are affected by it.

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