Five Solutions Offered for Achieving Gender Equality in Medicine and Science

Sarah Kaplan is Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Women’s representation in science and medicine has slowly increased over the past few decades. However, this rise in numbers of women, or gender diversity, has not been matched by a rise in gender inclusion. Despite increasing representation, women still encounter bias and discrimination when compared with men in these fields across a variety of outcomes, including treatment at school and work, hiring, compensation, evaluation, and promotion.

In a review published in a special issue of The Lancet on “Advancing women in science, medicine, and global health”, Profs. Sonia Kang and Sarah Kaplan of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management identify five myths that continue to perpetuate gender bias and offer five strategies for improving not only the number of women in medicine, but also their lived experiences, capacity to aspire, and opportunity to succeed.

Kang is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and holds a cross-appointment to the Rotman School. Kaplan is Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School (where Kang also holds an appointment as a Faculty Research Fellow).

“We argue for a move away from a singular focus on interventions aimed at targeting individual attitudes and behaviour to more comprehensive interventions that address structural and systemic changes,” say Profs. Kang and Kaplan.

Sonia Kang is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and holds a cross-appointment to the Rotman School. She also holds an appointment as a Faculty Research Fellow at the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the Rotman School.

In the review, five myths about diversity and inclusion including “bias is a problem unique to only a few individuals” and “promoting diversity contravenes meritocracy” are debunked. Using management research, the authors offer five strategies for improving the experience of women in medicine including treating gender inequality as an innovation challenge, changing institutional norms, creating a culture in which people feel personally responsible for change, implementing behavioural guidelines and action plans to help people translate their goals into action, and embedding organizational efforts within larger systems that support and monitor progress toward diversity and inclusion goals.

This week, The Lancet dedicated an entire issue to advancing gender equity in science, medicine and global health. The collection of papers highlights that gender equity in science is not only a matter of justice and rights but is crucial to producing the best research. By publishing new evidence, commentary and analysis, the journal calls on researchers, clinicians, funders, institutional leaders and medical journals to examine and address the systemic barriers to advancing women in science, medicine and global health.

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