Gender bias in medicine and health workshop by Medical Herstory

This past Thursday, March 25th, I was invited to attend a workshop by the non-profit award-winning organization Medical Herstory. The workshop was about identifying and understanding gender bias in medicine and health care and how it affects women of all races and ethnicities in multiple ways.

The goal of this workshop was to equip all attendees with the ability to identify and eliminate gender bias in our own medical practice, education, and research, as many of the attendees were either medical doctors or health science students.

When we think of gender bias in the context of health care and the world at large, some of the words that may come to mind include inequity, discrimination, sexism, stereotypes, lack of representation, and bias in research. In fact, by definition, gender bias is an unintended but systematic neglect of certain genders, stereotyped preconceptions, and a neglect of gender issues. Discussions usually center around cisgender women but gender bias affects everyone. There is an intersectional nature of oppression when it comes to gender issues.

When we look at the world, it may be difficult to identify gender bias, in spite of women dealing with the consequences of it every day! Two major gaps in gender equality are the trust gap and the research gap. The trust gap stems from the lack of trust that many medical professionals show in believing a woman’s self-report, deeming women that are in pain as overly dramatic or sensitive, thus dismissing women’s symptoms and concerns and consequently, delaying a proper diagnosis.

On the other hand, the research gap identifies a need to put women’s health front and center, rather than deferring to the “standard” 70-kg able-bodied white cis-male as the subject of interest in the majority of research and clinical trials. Some examples of male-focused research undermining early diagnosis in women include diagnosis of heart or cardiovascular disease, autism spectrum disorder, and many others. All in all, there is a double-bind in women’s health from both a lack of trust and a lack of treatments.

Now you may be wondering why, after all the women’s rights progress over the last four decades, has gender bias persisted in our society? The truth is that, as with many other women’s issues, gender bias is perpetuated through “neutral” channels from societal to interpersonal to structural to research levels. In the end, educating the general public (and people of all genders) is the key to reducing and eliminating gender bias.

Here are some ways that you can disrupt gender bias:

  • check your sources
  • push for curriculum change
  • speak up when you witness sexism or gender bias
  • join associations and clubs at your university or hospital
  • prioritize educating yourself further when there are gaps

The 3-step approach that you can use as a personal strategy is:

  1. be aware
  2. be corrective
  3. be reflective

Most importantly, remember to be an advocate for your own care and the care of the women in your vicinity, be it friends, family members, or fellow women in your community circles.

If you would like to read more about Medical Herstory’s work, make sure to check out their website. Finally, here are some of the articles that we discussed and reflected upon during the workshop:
Prescription: White Panties
Test Anxiety
Freedom Pizza

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Hej! My name is Francisca. I come from the faraway land of the supreme maple syrup, aka Canada. I’m the blogger for the Master’s Programme in Molecular Techniques in Life Science at Karolinska Institutet. I love to write about my experience as a student in my programme, a newcomer to Stockholm, and a rookie at life in general. In my free time, I enjoy playing tennis, making music, sketching the city’s landscapes, and reading about anything and everything that interests me.


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