Women’s brain power has been denied for too long, denying them university educations. As a result, we all suffer from this bias against women and the reluctance to allow women anything more than tokenism in medical schools. Think about the Ivy League colleges and how many would not permit women to be admitted.
Ivy League universities include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. Columbia University admitted women in 1980 and was the last to do so. The others began accepting women in the 1960s and 1970s.
Why do you suppose we have Barnard college and Radcliffe (now Harvard Radcliffe Institute)? If women wanted an education, they had to create their colleges, and the Seven Sisters were born. Men in Ivy League schools thought of them as a means to find appropriate wives. But women in those colleges had other ideas. They wanted to use their abilities not in the home necessarily, but professions.
Medicine was one of the lone holdouts in the professions that began admitting more women after medicine may have lost some luster as lucrative and did not attract as many male applicants as before. Women were sought to fill all those empty seats. Changes in reimbursement related to the DRGs, health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid decreased physician income, and the pandemic will indeed have an effect, too.
Now, research points out an uncomfortable aspect of medical practice that has to do with who cares for you, how well you are cared for, and possibly how well you would do after your treatment with that physician. And it does relate to women in medicine, the slow admission rate, and the number of women in some specialties that has been dismal.
Medical Specialties Still Underrepresented
In the mid-1960s, only 6 percent of the students enrolled in U.S. medical schools were women. By the mid-1970s, the number of women graduating from U.S. medical schools had risen to only 16 percent. Fifty percent of applicants to medical school in 2004–2005 were women, 49 percent were medical students with 47 percent graduated.
During the 2019–2020 application cycle — the most recent year for which data is publicly available — more than 53.5% of applications to MD-granting medical schools came from women, who made up 53.7% of the number of students matriculating. But there is still a gap in the medical specialties.
The lowest percentage of women in 2017 was orthopedic surgery, with just 5.3 percent. Similarly, only 7.0 percent of thoracic surgeons and 7.7 percent of the active interventional cardiology workforce were female. In urology, only 8.5 percent of the physicians are women, with 3.99 per 100K patients.
As sexism persists in medicine, where women have lower incomes than men, work longer with each patient, and longer hours, research is recouping other positive information.
Patients of women physicians appear to have better health outcomes than those treated by male physicians. Women’s surgical patients were 32 percent less likely to die. A study of almost 3K surgeons with over one million patients concluded there might be a relationship between outcomes and the difference between the sex of the surgeon and that of the patient.