Gender equality in the healthcare sector seems to be a hot topic these days – and the traditional mindset of jobs in the healthcare sector seems to be breaking down, too. There is a shift in the culture of the generation and an examination into this can prove itself to be interesting.

A male – who is the sole breadwinner of the family and the female, the maker of the household – defines the traditional model of work. However, in our society today, a larger proportion of females are now moving into the workforce. Here, we examine the various factors that contribute to gender equality in healthcare careers.

Climbing the corporate ladder

In Singapore, there is an increase in the number of women prioritising their climb up the corporate ladder over a choice to settle down with a partner. In a survey conducted in 2015, it was discovered that that 63% of women prefer to remain single and will only get hitched later in life – citing a pursuance of their careers as of utmost importance.

This is a 10% increase from 2010 when the same survey was conducted. We also observe an increase in the enrolment of female medical students in tertiary institutions, where the ratio of female to male in 1995 was 50:100; while in 2014, it was 141:100.

This statistic sheds light that more females are becoming more career-minded and pursuing healthcare careers. Hence, the continuous pursuit of success in a woman’s career has also granted them financial freedom and independence – thereby, proving that happiness can be found outside of a romantic relationship with someone else.

Consequently, more time is spent on building their careers – and even sacrificing personal time for longer working hours – rather than spending time on ‘dating’. It is of little wonder that we are seeing more of our healthcare professionals dedicating themselves to their work that they do as personal marriages and the need to raise a family have all but taken a backseat in their lives.

In addition, women in Singapore have also made their wants known – by being more outspoken about the benefits of having the freedom and time without any children.

Transition in social stereotypes

As a society modernises and advances with the times, conservative mindsets are being challenged by the wider society. The statement, “men are the sole breadwinners of any family, and women should only focus on making the home” no longer holds completely true today – as social perceptions have largely shifted due to influences from both the government and prominent people in our society.

Our own government has actively steered towards equalisation of the roles of males and females through a robust introduction of new laws. For instance, mandatory paternal leave from work and extended childcare leave were instituted for men to have a sense of responsibility over what was traditionally viewed as a woman’s role. Such changes in social policies reflects the overall position of the wider community where there seems to be a strong belief that both genders must share in the responsibilities accorded to the individual (family) unit.

Prominent people of our society have also played a key role in promoting this shift in mindsets and beliefs. Emma Watson, a well-known actress of our generation, advocates for gender equality. She strongly believes that women should also have an important role in the workforce. Her work as a pioneer on the “HeForShe” campaign has reinforced the mission for the world “to create a bold, visible force for gender equality”.

Given the many strong actors in place, there is little doubt that these values, beliefs and mindsets will naturally make its way into the healthcare sector. What was traditionally seen as a taboo for males to be working as a nurse no longer applies with gender equality in place. Similarly, females who are traditionally thought to be confined to the home can now pursue what they want – again, with gender equality, it is now made possible.

Reward and recognition: Equality in the workplace

The change in society’s values and beliefs will always result in observable changes. Objectivity in performance appraisals is used to gauge how well employees of a company perform at their work; and is also used to reward outstanding employees. This enables personal excellence and opens up all doors of opportunities to every individual – no one is limited by their gender.

In healthcare, no patient is deeply concerned about the gender of their caregiver – whether nurse or doctor – as long as they are receiving quality care. There is no proof that male doctors are more competent than their female counterparts; nor is a female nurse more capable in helping patients to recover quicker from their ailments. In fact, such ideas would be quite laughable, given that objective measures can be used to assess overall satisfaction of patients on the level of care provided by the medical institution.

Interestingly, women in Singapore who have healthcare careers play an important role in the healthcare sector. Due to their nurturing and sensitive side, they can serve as champions of healthcare through proactively planning for healthcare services for their loved ones.

Future outlook

The pursuit of success through an individual’s career, a shift in society’s traditional mentality and a performance-driven culture all point towards gender equality in the healthcare sector. Regardless, the heart of it all is the patients that these healthcare professionals come into contact with during their course of work.

The focus should never be on who might be best able to provide the required care, instead it should be: How can we – as healthcare professionals – provide the best for our patients? This, in all ways, should be the key question regardless of gender. MIMS

Read more:
Gender bias in surgical research
When the identity of female doctors is eroded due to gender discrimination
The struggles of female surgeons in a male-dominated field