International Women's Day - Press for Progress

08 Mar 2018

Melissa Naidoo

by Dr Mellissa Naidoo

Female doctor standing in hospital corridor with folded arms

International Women's Day (IWD) celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women globally. This year, the campaign theme #PressForProgress calls on us to think, act, and be gender inclusive within our own spheres of influence.

What does this mean for the medical profession? Despite women now comprising more than 50% of medical school graduates, gender diversity remains a significant issue. Women only comprise 40.1% of the workforce, remaining significantly under-represented in particular specialties, and in leadership and decision-making roles. This lack of gender diversity plays a role in some of the prominent challenges being faced by the medical training and professional bodies including bullying and harassment, unequal career opportunities, and doctor health and wellbeing. The #ILookLikeASurgeon and #MeToo campaigns have drawn public attention to issues of gender in medicine, the lack of visibility of female doctors, and the pervasive gender bias faced by women in medicine. 

Acknowledging and promoting the important role women play in medicine is fundamental to creating cultural change, growing diversity and supporting inclusivity.  Women are significantly under-represented in college/society and in public service awards. Gender imbalance is also evident in speakers at medical conferences and academic meetings. Less frequent use of professional titles in addressing female doctors can contribute to an altered perception of expertise and competence, and undermine achievements and visibility.

Acceleration of gender parity is not just an issue of fairness, but an economic imperative. In health, it also has implications for patient safety and quality of care. Celebrating medical women’s achievements, forging positive visibility and maintaining a gender parity mindset requires more than just good intentions. Deliberate focus and action will challenge stereotypes and bias, and influence beliefs and actions.

As a profession, we should take every opportunity to honour a medical woman, invite a female speaker, and raise the profile of women within medicine.

How will you #PressForProgress?

For other examples of positive actions to reduce inequity or to make a pledge visit:



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