Women in Medicine: Are We "There" Yet?

Jessica Freedman, MD


November 16, 2010

In This Article

Statistics Demonstrate Progress

The number of women who are physicians or who are in the medical training pipeline suggests that we are indeed "there" in terms of gender equality in the workplace. But other data -- on sexual harassment and gender bias, as well as gender discrepancies in salary and leadership positions in academic medicine -- indicate that the journey is far from complete.

Women represent nearly one third of the total physician population in the United States, according to the most recent data available.[1] This number is in keeping with an upward trend: in 1970, 7.6% of physicians were female; in 1980, 11.6%; in 1990, 6.9%; and in 2000, 24%.[1] Only 7 specialties had more than 1000 female physicians in 1970, whereas 25 specialties had more than 1000 female physicians by 2006. Women are especially prominent in certain specialties: family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics/gynecology.

An ever-increasing proportion of women in medical school indicates that female physicians will continue to move toward parity with male physicians -- at least in numbers. In 2004-2005, women accounted for 47.1% of medical school graduates, compared with only 24.9% in 1980-1981.


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