By Shana McLaughlin
Professor Dam Carol Black made headlines in 2004 when the then president of the Royal College of Physicians in London was quoted saying, "We are feminising medicine. It has been a profession dominated by white males. What are we going to have to do to ensure it retains its influence?" The headlines weren’t good; there was no celebration and praise for the growing number of female physicians in the healthcare workforce, but rather an underlying thread of “worry” as women doctors grew in numbers. Studies have shown that in the UK, female doctors will outnumber males by next year, as women attending medical school have increased nearly 10-fold. For many, including in the media, the medical field and job force is becoming “overfeminised.”
As a student looking to enter medicine, the word “overfeminised” screams intimidated and narrow-minded. Where is this feeling of inferiority and inability to accept the success and growth of women in medicine stemming from? Arguably it comes from the nature of the medical field for centuries before. As a traditionally male-dominated field, medicine seemed to escape criticism and the headlines. But, immediately as women seem to make some headway, the “issue” was at large.
Medicine being controlled and dominated by male doctors, surgeons, and healthcare providers has merely been the status quo. Now that this status quo is being pushed and trailed, people deem it an overstep of boundaries. I, like many other women stepping into medicine or already there, see this evolution as a bridge in gender division in a crucial aspect of our society, as well as in the healthcare of the individual.
Females in medical leadership positions are speaking out across the field in response to the growth in numbers of women like them within medicine, as well as to the corresponding sexist criticism. The Director of University College London Medical School, Jane Dacre, has been particularly open and opinionated on the topic, sharing the opinion that the growth of women in medical positions is not creating an “era of overfeminision” but is driving us to an era of “reaching equality in medicine.” The significance lies in this distinction between “overfeminisim” and “equality.”
Medical leaders who are women are bringing new ideas to the table, finding new treatments, connecting with patients in different ways, and practicing medicine in ways never thought of before. Equality in medicine can only propel medicine and progress forward, for men and women alike.