Female doctors in Italy, systemic ‘gender gap’: underestimated and penalized

by time news

Medicine is becoming increasingly pink, but despite the fact that the percentage of female doctors has grown over the years, there is still one gender disparity among health professionals in terms of career opportunities, treatment received in the workplace and credibility in the eyes of patients. This is what emerges from the research conducted by Univadis Medscape Italia – the information portal for health professionals with news, tools, updates and continuous training for the medical profession – which investigated where we are in our country in gender equity in medicine.

The survey

From the survey conducted online between May 25 and August 15, 2021 on 1,779 respondents (of which 999 males and 780 females) it emerged that career progression is of comparable interest between the two sexes. Despite this, the genre seems to play an important role, in fact the 44% of women feel penalized against only 10% of men. The impact seems to be attenuated in the case of income, perhaps also due to the characteristics of the sample, mostly made up of employed doctors or contracted with the public service, where the salary is not subject to individual bargaining.

To emphasize the gender difference more is the data that underlines how the male representatives of the sample are divided almost in half between those who have a managerial role and those who do not, a fact that does not apply to women: only 1 in 3 women holds an apical role, while around the 48% reports having personally undergone a different treatment in the workplace because woman. This feeling is predominant in generation X (born between 1981 and 2000), probably more aware of their rights than previous generations.

Even in issues where scientific quality should theoretically be the only yardstick, women have the clear perception that they are starting at a disadvantage: over 1 in 5 finds it unjustified difficulty in publishing in the scientific literature e 1 in 3 to be invited to present their research in a forum of colleagues.

Gender Gap

The gender gap is also often emphasized by patients themselves and their families: it emerged from the survey that women doctors are often confused with other healthcare professionals – such as nurses – and they have one less credibility in the eyes of the patient, their companion and sometimes male colleagues, especially if the working relationship is occasional.

The lack of credibility in the eyes of patients and their colleagues, in addition to the existence of gender stereotypes that lead to underestimating the personal characteristics really necessary to perform a particular function, generate in women doctors a feeling of frustration that adds to the difficulties already known of these professionals “ – he comments Daniela Ovadia, Univadis Medscape Italia Editorial Coordinator and author of the report. “Being called ‘Miss’, rather than with your job title, shows that a change of pace is necessary to give professionals a real chance to devote themselves to their careers without having to sacrifice their private life and loved ones.”.

But on top of the concerns of Italian doctors, regardless of gender, there is search for a difficult balance aimed at reconciling private and professional life – indicated by 40% of the males interviewed and 33% of the females, with a modest difference between those who have children and those who do not. In this context the pandemic has increased the pressure associated with this work by affecting the way doctors view their profession with 1 in 2 women who have been pushed to question their career as a doctor for reasons such as the excessive request for sacrifices without financial feedback, the high level of risks and the need to give priority to family and loved ones. However, COVID-19 has only highlighted some of the gaps in the work system that have led to one over the years systemic inequality: indeed, 51% of female doctors gave up their children for their career or had fewer than they wanted, against 18% of male doctors, a figure also supported by ISTAT estimates which confirm that 45.4% of women aged between 18 and 49 are childless. As emerged from the report, despite an apparent fair distribution of unforeseen events and emergencies, it is the woman doctor who takes care of the management of the ordinary family, often feeling in difficulty due to working hours. The incorrect perception of family management between women and men should also be underlined, with the latter more convinced that they are protagonists of an equal commitment, more than the women who responded to the survey perceive.

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