Discrimination against women is intrinsic to the medical career model itself" by Bahia Hakiki MD, Ph.D.
Besides the continuous increase in the number of women in the medical field, it hasn't been accompanied by the rise of women in leadership positions. We can undoubtedly dissect the thousands of sexist behaviors at the origin of these data and rightly speak of discrimination against women. However, there are more subtle aspects related to the organization of the medical profession itself that put women at a disadvantage from the outset.
For family reasons, women often lose working time when they go on maternity leave, and later ask for more flexible or part-time hours when they have children. All this slows them down in the race for managerial positions and penalizes them when they aim for research or academic career. Also, many women choose medical specializations with fewer career demands to manage their time better. Conversely, some women doctors renounce family to provide the same performance as their male colleagues. In both situations, women have to make painful choices and have to adapt to a model of medicine built by men and for men.
A study on the feminization of medicine in the UK (Dacre J and Sheperd S, 2009) states that unless measures are taken to tackle this epochal change, which is the massive presence of women in medicine, the standard of medicine itself is likely to fall.
Without commenting on the importance of greater involvement of men at the domestic and family level, which is beyond the scope of our topic, it would therefore be desirable to rethink the internal organization of medical careers and de-masculinize it so that women can fulfill their potential without having to choose between their family life and their career.
Creating better childcare options is crucial in the gender parity of women in STEMM and would, therefore, help create an equal environment between men and women.
_By Bahia Hakiki, MD, Ph.D. & ALWIS mentor