Role of Physician Gender in the Modern Practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Do Obstetrician-Gynecologists Perceive Discrimination From Their Sex?

Mark Turrentine, MD; Mildred Ramirez, MD; Lauren Stark, MPP; Carrie Snead, MA; Jay Schulkin, PhD


South Med J. 2019;112(11):566-570. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objectives: It is unclear whether obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) experience gender discrimination as a result of patient and organizational gender preferences. Our objective was to evaluate whether the gender preference for OBGYNs resulted in perceptions of discrimination by the physician while simultaneously assessing their patients' views for choosing their OBGYN.

Methods: A survey assessed whether OBGYNs' perceptions of patients and employers' preferences for gender in selecting an OBGYN affected their clinical practice and resulted in feelings of discrimination. Providers' patients simultaneously completed a survey to explore the role of gender in the selection of their OBGYN. The Mann-Whitney U test was used for comparisons. A P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: Thirty-four physicians (97% response rate) and 803 patients (81% response rate) completed the survey. The majority of male physicians agreed that their gender negatively affects their patient practice volume (60%), whereas no female physicians agreed with this statement (0%, P < 0.01). Female physicians were more likely to agree (46%) that they are discriminated against because of gender in terms of salary as compared with male physicians (20%, P = 0.049), however. Although more women who see a female OBGYN (compared with those who see a male OBGYN) perceive that their physician's gender is important to them (62% versus 20%, P < 0.01), the most frequent reason all women chose their OBGYN is the "rating" of the physician.

Conclusions: Female and male OBGYNs perceive bias because of their gender; however, the former is because of compensation and the latter is because of patient preferences. The majority of women choose their OBGYN based on the physician's rating and not on the physician's sex, however.


In the last 2 decades, a shift in women's partialities regarding the gender of their obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) has been reported, with more women wanting to see a female physician.[1] Reports from around the world have indicated that 45% to 61% of women prefer a female OBGYN.[2,3] Reasons given include religious beliefs, that their health concerns can be more fully understood by a physician who has undergone similar experiences, and preferring the patient-centered communication style used by female OBGYNs.[1,2] The year 2013 marked the first time in the medical specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the United States that the majority (52%) of active physicians were female.[4] With 83% of Obstetrics and Gynecology resident-physicians in 2017 being female, this trend is projected to grow.[5]

Because of patient preferences, medical practices may be motivated to staff only female OBGYNs. In theory, this would meet the request of the consumer, reduce potential issues of personal modesty of the female patient, and increase patient satisfaction. OBGYNs recognize this occurrence, but vary in reaction to it. Some view this change as suitable, whereas others are troubled by this phenomenon, arguing that it reflects discrimination.[6] A 2003 survey of members from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted that although both sexes considered female gender to be an asset to the specialty, there was no difference between the sexes in their overall career satisfaction rating.[7] Research is lacking on comparisons of OBGYNs' perceptions of their patients' gender preferences versus actual patients' gender predilections for their OBGYN and the impact this has on a physician's views of discrimination. Our objective was to evaluate whether gender preference for the OBGYN from patients resulted in perceptions of discrimination by the physician while simultaneously assessing their patient's views of gender preference for choosing her OBGYN.