For the last two weeks our blog has served as a platform to explore the effect diversity is having and will continue to have on medical education. Part 1 covered racial diversity, part 2 covered the globalization of medical education, and part 3 covered socioeconomic representation. To wrap the series up, this post will feature changes in gender structure within medical education. Continue reading below for more information on how student gender equality has leveled out but equality of gender in the professor population is still far off.
2018 was a milestone for female medical students in the U.S. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that 54 percent of enrolled and potential students were female. This is the highest national percentage of female medical students to date.
It is safe to say that Medical Education in the U.S. has changed since Elizabeth Blackwell’s time. As the first women to earn a medical degree in the U.S. Elizabeth was a minority. She first attempted to receive her degree during the late 1800’s, a time when this time women had to petitioned to be allowed into all male-medical schools. Often times female students were ridiculed. This deterred them from completing their degrees.
Positions of Power
A strong female showing in the student body is building hope for a future of medicine where there are more female practitioners, greater equality in wages, and just maternity leaves, the is still an issue of representation among the staff at these institutions of higher learning. According to studies from the 2013-2014 academic year, only one medical school in the U.S. had an equal number of female and male full-time professors. On average, only 21% of full-time faculty members at medical schools were females. This means that more than ¾ of staff members were male.
Perhaps more surprising than the low percentage of female professors, is the fact that this small percentage represents growth. According to data compiled between 2003 and 2004, there was a 7 percent increase in the percentage of female professors during the past decade.
While any movement upwards is positive, a greater effort should be made to increase the rate of growth. If the 7 percent increase per decade trend continues, gender equality among professors at medical schools will not be reached for another 42 years, in 2061. To change this, school boards must take action. Medical schools need to provide examples for female students of what is possible. They need models of inspiration and systems of support in the form of mentors who understand them.
Some medical education institutions recognize the demand and are attempting to cultivate gender equality through hiring initiatives. These initiatives require certain portion of faculty members to be female. If more schools implement such strategies, the percentage of female professors will grow quickly.
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