Happy International Women's Day! We've come a long way with gender parity in medicine, but we still have a long way to go – only 34% of medical specialists are women, and women are paid less for doing the same work. Take some time today to read our breakdown of the state of gendered specialisation, and find out what you can do to help.

Women in Medicine

By Chloe Borgas (Gender Officer)

...a woman who voluntarily devotes herself to a state in which the abandonment of the domestic qualification seems a necessity, is a being whom men do not love and with whom women can hardly sympathise...

– Editor, Australian Medical Journal 1860

I know what you’re thinking. “158 years is a long time and we’ve come a very long way!”

And you’d be absolutely right. Half of medical graduates are now women, we’ve had female chairs of the AMA, non gender binary medical specialists and we’re well on our way to equality in the workplace.

However despite this progress, only 34% of medical specialists are women, including just 9.2% of surgeons. Women are paid less for doing the same work. Female GPs are paid on average 25% less than their male counterparts, which increases to 54% less if they have dependent children. An average female obstetrician in 2015 earned $181,900 less per year than her male counterpart. To make matters even more difficult, male doctors in Australia are not guaranteed any time off for parental leave, further reinforcing traditional gender roles.

Don't believe it? Fair enough – have a click through the links below for sources, and some great further reading for you evidence-based junkies out there. Especially this article for a comprehensive breakdown of the gender pay gap.

So why exactly is this the case? How come we still have such inequality in the medical field? Well there are a bunch of reasons which are hard to adequately sum up here, but a few notable contributing factors include:

  • The ‘lag phenomenon’, a result of the historically male dominant graduate cohort
  • Conscious and subconscious encouragement of women into “less prestigious,” lower income specialties. This is often in an attempt to offer ‘family friendly’ career pathways.
  • Perceived lack of credibility of female leaders or surgeons, which tend to favour traditionally “masculine” values and attributes
  • The alienating environments of heavily gendered cultures
  • Broader societal sexism resulting in a lack of female role models, an internalised lack of confidence
  • Sexual harassment and assault discouraging women from joining male dominated fields

So we’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.

We owe our predecessors a lot for allowing us the privilege to learn and practice medicine today. We’ve reached the point where we can (gasp!) practice medicine AND maybe even be loved and/or sympathised with, but we’re yet to achieve true workplace equality.

So what can you do about it? How can you get involved?

  • Like Level Medicine on Facebook for advocacy updates and more ways that you can get involved. Current projects include an Audit project of Australian medical schools (more info here) and advocacy programs.
  • Come along to the AMSS’ wide range of events this year surrounding gender, health & wellbeing, and LGBTQI+.
  • Talk to your friendly AMSS Gender Officers about any concerns, suggestions, ideas or queries surrounding gender issues. If you feel uncomfortable about a situation at uni or on placement, you can also contact Uni counselling, your year level coordinator or clinical placement coordinator.  
  • Most importantly: call out bullying, sexism or harassment around you! As the next generation of professionals, we have the power to shift conversation and achieve true equality in our field.

Sources & More Information

Bonus Content: 7 Bangers for Female Empowerment

By inspirational musicians who are activists / mothers / professionals / badass females

  • Santigold - Can’t Get Enough Of Myself
  • Camp Cope - The Opener
  • Ali Barter - Girlie Bits
  • OKENYO - Woman’s World
  • Vera Blue - Lady Powers
  • Sampa the Great -  F E M A L E
  • Meg Mac - Grace Gold