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Friday, January 25, 2008

Women Doctors more often wear White Coats in Media Protrayals

In pictures in the 2 largest medical journals in Sweden over a period of 1 year the majority (64%) of women doctors were dressed in white coats. The majority of male doctors (59%) appeared in civil dress.

The author of the letter to the editor in Medical Education asks herself if women still need to wear a white coat to be recognized as doctors and not be mistaken for nurses. Such images may maintain and reinforce gender inequalities. High-prestige specialties such as cardiology and neurosurgery are dominated by men, whereas psychiatry, dermatology and geriatrics are dominated by women.

The role of media representations as cause for this segregation has been studied by the author and her team in a research project at the Medical School in Umea, Sweden.

They investigated how female and male doctors were presented in the 2 largest medical journals in Sweden. All picture during a period of 1 year were counted and their relevant details gathered and analyzed.

1. Of all pictures 66% presented men, the actual percentage in the workforce in that year was 60%.
2. 85% of pictures in editorials were from men, in debates 77% and 70% in marks of honor featured men.
3. Women featured more often in chronicles (53%), columns and personal diaries.
4. Men were more often pictured in leading, demonstrating or speaking positions
5. Women were more often depicted in consultations or in bedside activities.

Eva E Johansson, Hanna Röjlar, Bodil Eriksson, Kristina Frisk (2008)
Gender differences in media portrayals of doctors: a challenge in the socialisation of next-generation doctors
Medical Education 42 (2), 226–226.
Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research


Aqua said...

I find this information really interesting, but not surprising. In 1988 at university I studied similar phenomena in one of my sociology classes.

I remember a study where people were asked to select missing pronouns in sentences, almost always people chose (for example) "when the nurse walked through the door "she" picked up the paper, and if it was a doctor, the pronoun "he" was almost always chosen.

It isn't just medicine that has this misrepresentation, or "glass ceiling" mentality. The other day in "The Vancouver Sun" there was an article titled, "'Glass Ceiling' getting thicker, survey shows" that explained how underrepresented women are in positions at or near the to of Canada's 100 largest companies.

The article stated that, "...[study] results showed only 31 women occupying top officer jobs such as CEO and CFO, in Canada's 100 largest publicly traded companies. That's a dismal 5.8 per cent of the high-ranking workforce. Last year, there were 37 women in those positions, or 6.9 per cent.
How many men occupied the remaining plum positions last year? How about 504?"

The entire article can be found at:

Dr. Shock said...

It is even declining: 16 per cent fewer women held top corporate jobs in Canada at the end of last year than in the previous year. In Canada? I was under the impression that the number of women at the top was increasing. Now I am not so sure.
Related post on this blog: