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Med Educ. 2013 Jan;47(1):59-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04351.x.

Gender matters in medical education.

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University of Plymouth, UK.



Women are in the majority in terms of entry to medical schools worldwide and will soon represent the majority of working doctors. This has been termed the 'feminising' of medicine. In medical education, such gender issues tend to be restricted to discussions of demographic changes and structural inequalities based on a biological reading of gender. However, in contemporary social sciences, gender theory has moved beyond both biology and demography to include cultural issues of gendered ways of thinking. Can contemporary feminist thought drawn from the social sciences help medical educators to widen their appreciation and understanding of the feminising of medicine?


Post-structuralist feminist critique, drawn from the social sciences, focuses on cultural practices, such as language use, that support a dominant patriarchy. Such a critique is not exclusive to women, but may be described as supporting a tender-minded approach to practice that is shared by both women and men. The demographic feminising of medicine may have limited effect in terms of changing both medical culture and medical education practices without causing radical change to entrenched cultural habits that are best described as patriarchal. Medical education currently suffers from male biases, such as those imposed by 'andragogy', or adult learning theory, and these can be positively challenged through post-structuralist feminist critique.


Women doctors entering the medical workforce can resist and reformulate the current dominant patriarchy rather than reproducing it, supported by male feminists. Such a feminising of medicine can extend to medical education, but will require an appropriate theoretical framework to make sense of the new territory. The feminising of medical education informed by post-structuralist frameworks may provide a platform for the democratisation of medical culture and practices, further informing authentic patient-centred practices of care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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