America has more male physicians than female, even though more women start to study medicine as their degree. There is still much bias towards females progressing in the medical profession, just as there is in many other lines of work. This has resulted in most of the top medical jobs being held by males.
This situation has improved since the 1960s when only 7% of physicians were female. Now the percentage if just over 30% practicing and nearly 50% in training. Part of the problem is that of those in training, not all of them will have the support they need to see it through to becoming a physician, and there needs to be radical changes in attitudes if this is ever to alter.
One of the biggest complaints female doctors have is that they are not recognized as physicians by the patients. It seems it is very common for them to be asked if they are a nurse or a ward orderly, and that patients get quite shocked when they realize the female will be the medical professional treating them.
Of course, this does not apply to all patients but it must be very disheartening to enter a room with a male student, and the patient directs all information and questions to them instead of to the female physician. It seems that patients have more trust in male doctors, but that is only because males in this role have always been the tradition for them in the past. Younger patients are much less likely to act in this way.
The perception of patients needs to change and they need to realize that is this world of sexual equality they are just as likely to be treated by a female.
It seems that it is not just patients either. When doctors are speaking at a conference, for instance, their medical title is less likely to be used if they are female. It has been noted that when the speaker is male they are referred to as doctor whoever, but when the speaker is female their name is given without their qualification.
Lack Of Support
Training in the healthcare sector to be a physician takes many long hours of hard work. The structure of the training has not changed much since the 1960s when almost all of the residents were men who do not carry the same home life responsibilities.
If you compare the life of a male and female student, and this applies to all students taking degrees, you will find that the female one has more things to do outside of their studying. Females are expected to work the same number of hours while training, without any extra support. If they have children or other family commitments, this can lead to them becoming overtired and depression setting in. One study showed that female students are 60 times more likely to suffer from anxiety than men.
There are actually more females start medical training but fewer of them end up as physicians. This lack of support continues throughout their careers and for many of them, life in other areas of the medical profession is simpler to manage.
From their point of view, it is not easy to care for patients, care for a family, care for themselves and then have to work 80 hours a week as well. The medical training needs to change to allow for this if the profession wants more women to become physicians.
The Ones That Make It
Of course, there are women who work their way to the top of their profession and there are several that have achieved this in medicine. Dr. Cynthia Telles is just one example of a woman that has become very successful and is very highly respected. She has spent her career helping underprivileged communities get the access to high-quality medical care they deserve.
There are others that work in hospitals and clinics and some manage to become the head of their department. This is hindered when they have a family though, as on average they are able to work about 12 hours less per week than their male counterparts.
There is no doubt that when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female to attend medical school in America back in 1847, she hoped that many other women would follow in her footsteps. She encountered some of the same prejudices that women doctors are still suffering nearly 200 years later, and if things do not change for the better, the percentage number of female doctors in America is not likely to grow much more.