In honor of National Women Physicians Day (we’re a little late, it was February 3rd), we’re highlighting some important stats about women in the medical community. Once relegated to one occupation (nurses), women have come a long way since the early days of medicine in the United States. However like many industries, in America progress for women in health care still has a ways to go.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 34% of all active physicians are women. The highest percentage of female physicians is in Washington DC (46%), the lowest is in Idaho (23%). The overall numbers in the United States has been trending upwards since the 1970s, when just 7.6% of all physicians were women. The United States census reports there were over 253,600 women physicians working full time in the United States.
Although there are more women physicians, sexism is still a major problem. While the focus on sexual harassment and assault in politics and the entertainment industry has been encouraging, there is still serious issues of both in the medical community. It is especially problematic for women who are training to be physicians. In a 1993 study, over 70% of women who were in training reported sexual harassment by a colleague. Seven years later a follow up study found that just over half of women physicians were still dealing with sexual harassment. The same 2000 study found that 48% of female physicians reported sexually suggestive comments. Three in 10 women physicians reported more serious assaults, threats, coercion, and other severe harassments.
It should be no surprise that these numbers also lead to gender bias in the medical community. Around 54% of women physicians have reported gender pay gaps that favor men, being treated with disrespect by male colleagues, and career obstacles like being passed over for promotions by less qualified staff. Even male physicians are noticing the gender gap in treatment, with over 27% of male physicians reporting gender bias against women.
Still more women working in the industry will help to ease the problems currently faced by female physicians. And the trends show more women entering the world of medicine. In fact the number of women becoming physicians has doubled since 1980. While most women are practicing gynecology and working in pediatrics, there are still large sections of specialties without many women, including orthopedic surgeons and urologists.
We have been proud to work with women physicians all over the country, and stand by them in their quest for equality in the medical world. As the male dominated fields continue to diminish it’s important for women in the medical community to join other industries in speaking out about the injustices they face.
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