Gender inequalities in medicine a pressing issue – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
This article was written exclusively for The European Sting by Ms. María Teresa Ferri, a third-year medical student from Ecuador, she works with the local medical student association on the education committee. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), a cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the author and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s point of view on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.
Try explaining this: “A father and son are in a horrific car accident that kills the father. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he is about to go under the knife , the surgeon says: “I can’t operate, this boy is my son! (1)
When this experiment was performed on 197 Boston University psychology students and 103 children between the ages of 7 and 17, only 14 and 15% of them, respectively, responded that the mother was the surgeon (1) . Does this stat mean anything to you?
Here’s another, according to a survey by Medscape in the US, UK, Germany, France, Brazil and Mexico; the gender pay gap is around 20-29% (2). Guess which group is underpaid?
All over the world, women constantly face inequalities in their working environment because of their gender. It has been shown that women are judged more harshly when they make ethical errors. This was proven by a quick experiment in which a group of people were asked to judge a hospital administrator who committed an unethical action; it turned out that if the person had a male name, the sentence was 80 days and if the person had a female name, the sentence was 130 days (2). It is also important to mention the fact that the higher the hierarchy of positions, the lower the percentage of women in charge. In 2014, the AAMC reported that 46% of residents were female, while only 21% were faculty and only 16% were deans (3). Another noteworthy aspect is what Dr. Nancy Baxter, a colorectal surgeon in Toronto, recalls. She says women are more likely to receive simple, lower-paying procedures than men, who tend to receive complex procedures that not only earn them more money but also respect (2). She also mentions that women tend to be more patient when dealing with certain cases that require more time; therefore, these cases are often referred to them (2). The problem here is that women are not paid for the overtime because the payment is based on the patient, not the time.
Operation Smile, a nonprofit medical organization that provides safe surgery for children with cleft lip or palate around the world, conducted its first international medical mission with all-female staff. This mission took place in Oujda, Morocco, where around 50 medical volunteers carried out 130 surgeries for children in need. At the end of the mission, interesting conclusions were obtained; 73% of women who could not find a mentor in their country found one in the mission and 100% were inspired to mentor women in their country (4). The simplicity of having a safe work environment where they feel supported and equal has inspired these women to not only continue to grow professionally, but to help other women grow as well.
Do you know when we hope to close the gender wage gap in the United States? In the year 2059 (5). It’s time to change this reality, it’s time for women.
1. Barlow R. BU Research: A riddle reveals the depth of gender bias. [Internet]. Boston University. 2014. Available at: http://www.bu.edu/articles/2014/bu-research-riddle-reveals-the-depth-of-gender-bias/
2. Boesveld S. What explains the gender pay gap in medicine? Flight. 192, CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal of the Canadian Medical Association. 2020. p. E19–20.
3. Allen RM. Gender inequality in medicine: too much evidence to ignore. Psychiatric Times. 2017;
4. Munabi DN. Going far together: A future for women in global health. Operation Smile. 2020.
5. Donner F, Goldberg E. In 25 years, the pay gap has narrowed by only 8 cents. The New York Times [Internet]. 2021; Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/24/us/equal-pay-day-explainer.html
About the Author
María Teresa Ferri is a third-year medical student from Ecuador, she works with the local medical student association on the education committee. She has been a volunteer with Operation Smile for 9 years and currently represents Ecuador on the student program’s Latin American leadership team. She has participated in two international student leadership conferences (Italy and Paraguay). His long-term aspiration is to be on the medical staff of Operation Smile; and to work with other nonprofit organizations that help those in need. She also wants to continue to grow in the medical field and continue to educate and work on human rights issues as well.