Female doctors’ dilemma

Lack of employment opportunities, safety, security and competitive salaries discourage women from pursuing medicine.

On the one hand, there is a massive influx of Pakistani students pursuing medicine. On the other, the healthcare sector is marred with infrastructure and resource constraints, which limits its capacity to employ graduates. Female medicine students and graduates, who are proportionately higher, face a greater dilemma due to several barriers ranging from structural issues to cultural and familial norms. As a result, presently 35% of female doctors are unemployed despite a dire need for skilled medical professionals in the country.

Pakistan’s unending obsession with the medical field coupled with the doctor bahu syndrome prompts families to pressure their daughters into pursuing medicine. However, most female graduates do not end up practising after graduation. A lack of employment opportunities, little to no salaries and the absence of safety and security for women in public spaces discourage women from pursuing a career in medicine. The few who manage to stay motivated and find work are also forced to step back sooner or later, particularly after marriages as they struggle to manage work with their domestic responsibilities. Often, people place the onus on women for their lack of interest or drive, but it is the larger structure of society that hampers the progress of women in medicine.

Even though female doctors are just as competent and skilled as their male counterparts, they are scarcely offered promotion and training opportunities. They are subjected to different forms of discrimination and stigmas. Paid maternity leaves are rare and daycare facilities remain a far-off dream. Perhaps, the healthcare sector needs to introspect and dismantle gender discrimination along with improving work conditions for female practitioners. This is particularly important because women across the country continue to lack access to basic healthcare. Recruiting more female doctors will not only stem the unemployment issue but improve overall healthcare support in the country.

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