Perhaps the most difficult and aggravating factor that discourages women from entering the medical field is stereotypes. Throughout the centuries, society as a whole has viewed women as wives, mothers, and domestic workers. Even during the women’s rights movement, the government was reluctant to give women the right to vote and allow them to work in the same places as men. As a result, women were allowed to work wherever they could, but would likely get paid significantly less. This stereotype still exists today, 2018, decades after the women’s rights era, and more specifically, in medicine.
A woman, graduating with a pre med degree in 2014 was told by her male academic advisor that she should not apply to medical school and to, “consider a profession easier than medicine.” It is common for women to be condescended to or believed to be less intelligent. This stems from the belief that women are often more emotional than men and cannot handle doing jobs that require focus and discipline.
Matthias Mehl from “Human Brain” was intrigued that the the greater number of dropouts in medical school and in medical careers were women. He decided to record daily life in the research department of university of Arizona. What he found destroyed any evidence that women in fact are more emotional, talk more, and less competent. One common stereotype associated with women is that they talk more than men do, thus making them less able to do a job and seemingly less competent. However, Mehl found that there was, “practically no difference-both men and women speak around 17,000 words a day, give or take a few hundred.” From this, we can eliminate any real evidence that women in fact are distracted from their work by talking more than men, and that others would see them as less competent due to their excessive chatter.
Another outcome found in this study suggests that when female scientists are confronted by male peers, they tend to sound less intelligent than when female scientists speak to female peers. This is interesting because it suggests an underlying factor of intimidation that is not necessarily present in the conversation, meaning the male scientists were not necessarily acting condescending while addressing the females, but prior interaction had led the females to be reluctant to speak in an intelligent matter out of fear of being rejected.
Aside from the common ‘less intelligent’ gender stereotype, there is the domestic stereotype. This means that women are commonly seen as mothers, wives, and house makers, and nothing more. This leads to women seeming unfit to work in a professional environment, or at the same level as a man. A larger percentage of women feel that they are put into this category who work in medicine. This is likely due to the majority of their peers being men, so the stereotype naturally exists as the men are not used to working alongside female peers, only above them. Many female doctors quit for this very reason. The lack of respect that women can hold the same job as men and are not required to stay home, have afamily, and take care of the children is present in environments that are majorly male.
The last point brought up was the inability for women to take a maternity leave and come back with the same respects. Often, if a woman requests maternity leave, she will come back to her job months later and be treated as less competent, more emotional, and less professional. This is confusing given that the overall feeling is that women should start a family, but if she does, she still won’t be treated as an equal. It seems as if there is no way to win this debate over equality, if a woman breaks out of her stereotype, she won’t be accepted, and if she fits into it, she won’t be treated as an equal.
Overall, stereotypical influences are perhaps the biggest boundary to women trying to pursue a career in medicine. From snide remarks from peers, advisors, and society, to questioning intelligence, women are discouraged from pursuing their dreams.
“Gender Discrimination in Healthcare.” Gender Differences and Discrimination In the Workplace, sites.psu.edu/civic/2017/02/14/gender-discrimination-in-healthcare/#annotations:sJT7NAqvEeiO3OtvsffGkg.
Vedantam, Shankar. “How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science.” NPR, NPR, 12 July 2012, www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science-jobs.