Maha sees drop in percentage of women taking up medical courses
Data from the Maharashtra University of Health Science (MUHS), provided in response to a right-to-information query filed by HT, shows the percentage of women in medical courses has dipped from 49.4% in 2015-16 to 44.8% in 2018-19. The figures have been compiled from the 39 medical colleges in the state, all of which are affiliated to MUHS.
Enrolment data from the medical colleges in Maharashtra shows that in 2015-16, out of 4,663 students, 50.5% were male and 49.4% were female. While the total number of students admitted to medical colleges increased in 2016-17, there was a marginal drop in the percentage of female students (49.2%). In 2017-18, there was a sharp dip as 44% of the 5,096 students were women and 56% were men. In 2018-19, of the 5,130 students admitted to study MBBS, 55.2% were male and 44.8% were female.
According to the MUHS, almost 50% of female focus on general practice after acquiring an MBBS degree and do not opt for postgraduate studies. Dr Sumitra Rao, a general physician, attributed this to the lack of autonomy for women. “Many female doctors are not allowed by their parents or in-laws to practice through the day. They are asked to start their own clinics which they can visit according to timings convenient for their families,” said Dr Rao.
HT had reported in November 2019 that a survey had shown more female medical students in the city suffered from anxiety than their male counterparts as a result of domestic expectations.
Women doctors said one reason for the declining number of female students was the difficulty of balancing academic pressures with social conventions. “In today’s world of specialisation, only an MBBS degree is not enough. We have to do specialisation and then super-specialisation, which takes years. The family starts putting pressure on women to get married and settle down,” said Dr Duru Shah, director of Gynaecworld and former president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI).
Gender bias is also visible in the specialisations across all college in the state. In Maharashtra, there were 114 women students compared to 17 men in obstetrician/gynaecology courses in 2019-20. In contrast, general surgery had 31 women and 145 men. Orthopaedics had 84 men and three women. Pathology was dominated by women (85 students) and had 46 male students.
Rukmini Krishnamoorthy, who was chief of Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) between 2002 and 2008, said the additional pressure of looking after a family pushed women doctors “to select a subject which will have regular office hours.” “This is why we have so few female forensic experts in our country. They have to work with police, which often family members don’t like,” she said.
The silver lining is that doctors did not report a disparity in the salaries of male and female doctors. “In India, irrespective of gender, doctors are paid according to their experience and specialisation,” said Dr Shah.
Idzes Kundan, secretary, department of women and child development, said there are government schemes that attempt to sensitise men about gender bias.