Changing Times...Male/Female Workforce Statistics in the Nursing/Doctor Professions.

Women Enter The Doctor Profession

In the early Twentieth Century, the women’s rights movement was under way. In 1920 they fought for the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment allowing them the right to vote. They also began to actively seek higher education and began achieving the same careers as men. Among these careers was becoming a doctor, a feat which could not be reached without successful completion of medical school and the acquisition of a Doctorate degree. A few women studied their way through medical school, often graduating one or two at a time in a class with dozens of men. They were frequently discriminated against as well. The perception of female doctors began changing slowly but surely in the years to follow. 

Female Doctor.

Throughout history, men would be shipped off in times of war leaving the women to work the day-to-day jobs around towns and cities. World War II was tragic for many people, but it led to peace for many nations. World War II also gave women the chance to work as doctors for the men who would return injured. Women were given the opportunity to understand the field and as a result, some medical institutions were open to keeping them on staff. Others rid their staffs of the women who worked during the wartime and posted job offering signs stating “Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply.”  

More and more medical schools began granting women admission. Today females account for around 23.1% of physicians in the United States. This number is still quite low considering that 43% of medical school graduates are female. However, the change is recognized. Even television programs recognize the changing industry. Medical and hospital-themed shows such as House feature far more varied casts of doctors while Emergency, which aired in the 1970s featured all male paramedics and doctors.  

  • Labor Statistics: See what percentage of physicians are women in various countries.

  • Women Physicians 1945-1960: Learn about the struggle of women becoming accepted as physicians.

  • The 63% Question: It is said that even today female physicians earn 63 cents for every dollar a male doctor makes.

  • Women Need Not Apply: It is shocking to see just how many female doctors there were in Iowa during the late 1800s.

  • The Evolution of Women as Physicians and Surgeons: The introduction to an essay by Gerard N. Burrow and Nora L. Burgess. It features some very relevant statistics.

  • Women in Science and Medicine: A study accounting for the women who entered the medical field to great opposition.

  • American Women Physicians (PDF): This essay accounts for past growths of women in the medical field but finds that change is still in progress.

  • Women Physicians: A collection of newspaper clippings, college records, pictures and other documents accounting for women’s history at the Drexel University College of Medicine.

  • The History of Medicine: Along with information about medical licensing and homeopathy, this article features a brief history of women and medicine.

  • A Timeline of Women in Medicine (PDF): View how a history of default rejection letters turned into the American Medical Association electing a female vice-speaker of the house.

Male NursesMale Nurse.

On the other end of the spectrum, many men are also challenging a perceived gender role. While more men are physicians, more women are nurses. In fact, only 5.4% of registered nurses are men.

In today’s job market it is difficult to find a career. However, there is a shortage of nurses and many people, both women and men are vying to fill these positions. Becoming a nurse requires only a Bachelor’s Degree and certification. Rarely do registered nurses seek a Doctorate or even attend medical school.

Unlike the women studying medicine in the 1940s, men in nursing programs have reported very little discrimination from their colleagues. However, many patients are resistant and even offensive toward male nurses. In the past, the educational institutions themselves could be blamed. The 1982 Supreme Court case Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan found that nursing schools were rejecting men based on gender, which violated the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The United States, like many other countries in the world, used to employ only male doctors. Women in hospitals were assumed to be receptionists or nurses. Today these statistics are changing. Females account for nearly one-quarter of physicians and the numbers are rising steadily. Likewise, the nurse shortage is causing many more men to seek positions as registered nurses. Even in the past half-century the gender demographics for these positions have undergone significant change. It will be interesting to see what they look like fifty years from now.