he first Indian woman physician, Anandibai Joshi, graduated in 1886. About 125 years later, Indian women started to outnumber men in admissions to medical colleges and the trend continues to grow stronger by the year: over the last five years, India has produced over 4,500 more female doctors than male ones.
In India, women constituted 51% of the students joining medical colleges, cornering 23,522 seats in 2014-15 compared to 22,934 men. This increase is in keeping with the worldwide trend. In fact, in the neighbourhood, Pakistan and Bangladesh have much higher proportions of women in medical colleges, 70% and 60% respectively.
However, there is a serious shortage of female doctors in India. According to a paper titled Human Resources for Health in India, published in 2011 in the medical journal Lancet, only 17% of all allopathic doctors and 6% of those in rural areas are women. This is less than one female allopathic doctor per 10,000 population in rural areas (0.5), whereas the ratio is 6.5 in urban areas. The number of female doctors per 10,000 population ranges from 7.5 in Chandigarh to 0.26 in Bihar.
According to a paper on women in medicine published in the journal, Indian Anthropologist, by sociologist Dr Mita Bhadra, the gender gap persists at the post-graduation and doctoral levels -the percentage of female doctors here is around onethird of male doctors. She also observed that positions of leadership in academics and administration are still mostly occupied by men.
In Pakistan, though 70% of medical students were women, only 23% of registered doctors were female because a large number of those who graduated never took to practising. Bangladesh produced 3,164 female doctors and just 2,383 male doctors in 2013. The trend of more women joining the medical profession is welcomed as female doctors are seen as more committed and caring.
A paper on women in medicine published by Dr 46.5 Rakesh Chadda and Dr Mamta Sood of the psychiatry department 37.3 of AIIMS in the Indian Journal of Gender Studies noted that medicine has been a 38 male-dominated profession because it demands long working hours that are disadvantageous to women who, even today , struggle to juggle career and family responsibilities.
The paper noted that though women were earlier largely restricted to fields like obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics, this was changing. “There has always been a preponderance of women in preclinical subjects like anatomy , physiology and biochemistry and paraclinical subjects like pharmacology , pathology and microbiology rights from the ’70s. However, when a department is headed by a woman, the percentage of women faculty in the department goes up. In departments headed by women the women faculty was 49% as compared to just 19% in those headed by men,“ says Dr Chadda, giving the example of the neurology depart ment in AIIMS, which saw a lot of woman faculty joining when the HOD was a woman. “It is probably because the head of the department becomes a role model and more women are encouraged to join,“ said Dr Chadda.
There are skews within the medical profession in most parts of the world with some medical specialties, such as surgery and other disciplines requiring emergency duty with irregular hours, being male-dominated. Even in the UK, though women account for over 56% of those opting for medical education, 44% are pediatricians, 49% are in public health and only 8% are surgeons, according to a Royal College of Physicians report.
Among the OECD countries, in 10, predominantly from the erstwhile Eastern Bloc, the proportion of female physicians is more than 50%, ranging from a high 73.8% in Estonia to 50.2% in Spain. In two non-OECD countries for which the OECD had data, Latvia and Lithuania, females accounted for over 74% and 70% of physicians. In contrast, only one in five doctors in Japan and Korea were women. In the US, it is one in three.
Source : Times of India 10 Jan’2015