Today, February 3rd, 2023, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of National Women Physicians Day, a day dedicated to honoring the thousands of women doctors across the world, and the impact they have as a part of the medical community. It’s also the 202nd birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, a pioneer of medical and feminist history who became the first woman to earn a medical degree from an American medical school in 1849.
Currently, women make up more than one-third of all physicians in the United States, and constitute the majority of students in U.S. medical schools, representing 53.8% of all medical school students in 2022. Women physicians add a tremendous amount of strength to the field of medicine. Recent studies show that women physicians may provide better clinical care and health care system savings in comparison with their male counterparts, and women may also generally be more collaborative in both research and education pursuits.
Despite the growth of women in the field, it’s also important to acknowledge the challenges and obstacles they face. Women doctors undergo drastic life changes and difficulties, such as bearing and rearing children, making a home, bringing in earnings to support the family, playing a role in the social and medical community, and keeping up with advances in the medical field. The result of these compounding forces is higher rates of burnout, lower rates of professional fulfillment, and higher rates of depression.
Women physicians also earn less than their male counterparts; in 2021, it was reported that women doctors make 28% less than male doctors for the same job. Some studies have reported this difference amounts to more than $2 million over a 40-year career.
Furthermore, women are sorely underrepresented in healthcare leadership, making up only 30% of C-suite executives and 13% of CEOs. The lack of gender parity extends to other critical leadership roles as well; only 18% of deans and 23% of all department chairs in the U.S. are held by women. Read more in Curative Executive Search’s special report, “A Seat at the Table: Female Leadership in Healthcare.”
At Curative, we thank the remarkable women physicians who serve across the country and continue to pave for the next generation of aspiring women physicians. To commemorate this special day, we asked some of our favorite physicians to reflect on what it means to be a woman in medicine, and the advances needing to be made.