“When are you going to give birth?”: How does sexism prevent you from building a career in medicine

IN SEXISM OF MEDICINE OFTEN, not only patients, but also women doctors are often confronted – and for those who are not involved in this sphere, this may sound unexpected, because the majority of medical workers are women. We understand who divides medical specialties into “female” and “male”, how many doctors and nurses are faced with harassment, and what can be done about it.

In ancient times, nursing and many household medical manipulations were a women’s prerogative – but as soon as the development of medicine as a profession began, men declared a monopoly on it. Since antiquity, only men were allowed to learn the art of healing. The names of women who have become exceptions – Merit-Ptah, Aspasia, Trotula – can be counted on the fingers, and they are known exclusively as gynecologists. If their scientific interests affected something other than obstetric aid, the story did not preserve this data. Until the end of the 19th century, women did not have the opportunity to receive higher medical education and apply for something more than the position of a sister of mercy or a midwife. The knowledge of obstetrics and caring for the sick was passed on to women in religious communities.

They began to break the tradition relatively recently – a couple of hundred years ago, and not always openly. So, nee Margaret Ann Balkley lived a long life, graduated from Edinburgh University and practiced as a military surgeon under the name of James Barry. The secret hidden by the woman was revealed only after her death. Under her present name, she received the first Elizabeth Blackwell medical diploma in 1849. The Rector of the Geneva College gave the decision to enter the university at the mercy of students, with the condition that if at least one out of one hundred and fifty people voted against, the woman would not be accepted – and everyone voted for.

In 1850, the world’s first Women’s Medical College, Boston, was founded. Its founder, Samuel Gregory, considered obstetric care too simple for male doctors and created a women’s college to rid men of this occupation. True, the program of the educational institution did not provide for full qualification and admission of female students to clinical practice – and without it a full-fledged medical education would not be obtained; the college was soon disbanded. Fallen banner picked up the Pennsylvania Women’s Medical College, where women from all over the world began to come. XIX century newspapers described women receiving medical education as “asexual shameless creatures, by their very appearance defaming the noble title of lady,” but the process was unstoppable.

Already during her studies at a medical higher school, students are being pressured in matters of their future specialty. “Surgery is not for girls,” “How do you lead a family with an unregulated schedule?”, “A pregnant woman should look only at the beautiful — which forensic scientist ?!”, “Girls need to learn from pediatricians in order to treat their children later” – all these phrases many have heard more than once during their studies. According to the endocrinologist who wanted to become an operating gynecologist and actively attended circles on topographic anatomy, under pressure from teachers she chose another — more “female” specialization. There are those who manage to ignore insults, although it is not easy. She shared her experience with a surgeon who, on duty in the surgical department and internship in general surgery, she was constantly subjected to misconceptions and jokes in the spirit of “How will you stand at the table [operating room], take care of your legs – nobody wants to look at them “,” The place of women at the kitchen table, not surgical, “and the like.

Unfortunately, in the view of many, including doctors, the specialties are divided into “female” and “male.” According to the results of a sociological study in writing the thesis “The gender status of women in modern medicine”, it turned out that women doctors have more difficulty in mastering a profession than men. The reasons for this are seen both in the polyfunctionality of the “female” social role (unpaid domestic work) and in the social prejudices that exist in society. For 2017, women accounted for only 19.2% of surgeons in the United States.

In addition to possible difficulties in training, women doctors in Europe often face denial of employment due to the presence of children or the likelihood of their occurrence. Specific data are not given here: statistics, unfortunately, are not kept. But often during a job interview, the second question after “Which institute did you graduate?” Becomes “When do you plan to give birth?”. According to the doctor, she even had a situation when she was denied employment, arguing that she was a young woman, of course, she plans to acquire a husband and children in the near future, which means: “Well, why are you?”

local_offerevent_note June 13, 2019

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