The Status of Women in Medicine

MARCH 07, 2016
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
Doctor Patient, Practice Management, Career Development, Gender EqualityInternational Women's Day is a time to inventory the status of women in medicine and women physician entrepreneurship in the US and throughout the world. The economic, business, educational, healthcare, social, political, and justice benefits of gender equality around the world are evident. Yet, barriers remain.

The status of women in US medicine and physician entrepreneurship, as you would expect, continues to evolve since Elizabeth Blackwell graduated as the first female (African American) physician to graduate from a US medical school in 1864. Here are some snapshots:

1. Women now make up about one-third of the doctors and lawyers in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reports. But for those female employees who expect equal representation in the near future, a discouraging statistic belies the good news: Female lawyers and doctors still get paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same job.

2. Female applicants to medical school make up approximately 50% of the total applicant pool. As in past years, the total number of men and women applying to and enrolling in medical school is fairly equally split, with male enrollees accounting for approximately 53% and female enrollees accounting for 47% of the 2013 class. In addition to the increase in first-time female applicants, the total number of men applying to medical school increased 5.8% from 24,338 applicants in 2012 to 25,760 male applicants in 2013. 

3. 44% of female physicians work part time.

4. Women-owned businesses are more profitable.

5. Rules make a difference in creating gender equality, particularly those that address child care subsidies, maternity/paternity leave policies and tax rules. Maternity leave policies for doctors are not working for many.

6. Physicians are the professional group with the highest rate of suicide. And studies have estimated that women physicians have as much as an eight fold rate of suicide compared to their male colleagues.

7. Specialty preferences vary by genderFewer than 5% of cardiothoracic surgeons are women.

8. Some think female doctors are better than male doctors.

9. Female doctors are less productive than male doctors.

10. Women entrepreneurs, both inside and outside of medicine, are making an impact.

Eventually, half of the doctors in the US will be women and many of them will be successful physician entrepreneurs. While there has been substantial progress over the years, billions of women around the world face oppression, sex trafficking, and a denial of basic human rights and opportunity. While the solutions are evident, the political will is not and it will take perseverance and courage to change the tide. 
 



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