Male and Female Doctors Statistics 2024 By Disparities, Trajectories and Professions

Trishita Deb
Trishita Deb

Updated · Apr 11, 2024

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Introduction

Male and Female Doctors Statistics: Doctors play an essential role in the medical industry. Male and female doctors play critical roles in providing different healthcare services in medicine.

Historically, men have significantly dominated the medical profession. However, there has been a considerable growth in the number of female doctors over the years, as more women seek professions in medicine.

The distribution of male and female doctors across different specializations and geographic locations can vary significantly.

Key factors such as personal preferences, cultural norms, work-life balance considerations, etc., may influence the choices made by male and female doctors regarding their work environment as well as location.

Male vs. Female Doctors Statistics

Editor’s Choice

  • The Private Nursing Service Market size was valued to be worth USD 609.7 Billion in 2022. From 2023 to 2032, it is estimated to reach USD 1179 Billion growing at a CAGR of 7%.
  • In 2022, the number of female first-year medical students in the United States marginally increased to 12,630. Women comprised 55.6 % of all first-year medical students in the United States.
  • Females (77%) rated the importance of both spouses’ careers in a relationship higher than males (56%).
  • The percentage of women in the 47 top specialties ranged from 12.9% in sports medicine (orthopedic surgery) programs to 83.8% in obstetrics and gynecology residency programs.
  • The World Health Organization i.e., WHO estimates that women comprise approximately 70% of the health workforce globally. However, this figure includes many healthcare professions beyond just doctors.
  • A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2019 found that female doctors earned, on average, 24.1% less than male doctors.

Medical School Enrolment Male vs. Female Key Statistics

  • Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the enrollment of women in medical schools all over the world. In 2022, 31,190 women applied to medical schools in the U.S. Women accounted for 56.5% of all applicants.
  • Since 2018, women have made up most of all medical school applicants. Female candidates in US medical schools have increased by 49% since 2012.  Across many countries around the globe, the proportion of female medical students in medical schools has increased. The exact percentages may vary by country, but female students now represent a significant portion of medical school classes in several regions, including the United States, Canada, and various European countries. 
  • In 2022, around 43% of students who applied to medical school were accepted. In 2022, 13,286 women were accepted to medical school. As a result, the acceptance percentage for female applicants was 42.6%, compared to 44% for their male counterparts.
  • In 2022, the number of female first-year medical students in the United States marginally increased to 12,630. Women made up 55.6 % of all first-year medical students in the United States.
  • For the first time, women made up the majority of incoming classes at US medical schools in 2017. In 2022, there were 51,890 female medical students in the United States. They accounted for 53.8 % of all medical students. Women made up most of all medical school enrollments in 2019 for the first time.

(Source: Association of American Medical Colleges)

Gender Differences in Specialty Preference

  • It is well-documented that there are gender differences in specialty preference among medical students. Historically, certain specialties have had higher proportions of male or female doctors. For example, specialties like surgery, orthopedics, and cardiology have traditionally been male-dominated, while pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and psychiatry have had higher proportions of female doctors. Men outnumber women in most medical professions, with some of the major specializations having three times as many men as women.
  • In cardiology, 82% of doctors are men. 73% of doctors in gastroenterology and hepatology are men, while 63% are in respiratory medicine. Overall, 58% of consultants and upper specialty trainees (years 3 to 8) are men, while some large specialties have a more equitable gender ratio. Women make up 51% of geriatric medicine practitioners, for example.  In all, 5859 substantive consultants (37% of these roles) and 3677 higher specialty trainees (51% of these roles) responded.
  • Men outnumbered women in all but a few of the lesser specializations, which each had fewer than 160 responders. Metabolic medicine (85% of doctors are men); clinical pharmacology and therapeutics (77%); general internal medicine (74%); sport and exercise medicine (71%); pharmaceutical medicine (56%); medical ophthalmology (63%); nuclear medicine (68%); immunology (56%); audiovestibular medicine (45%); and allergy (43%).

(Source: Royal College of Physicians)

gender-distribution-in-medical-specialties

Gender Equity in Medicine By Male and Female Doctors

  • Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in awareness regarding the promotion of gender equity across the globe. This trend is crucial in promoting a more balanced gender distribution in medical specialties.
  • Females (77%) rated the importance of both spouses’ careers in a relationship higher than males (56%).
  • Similarly, more ladies (68%) than males (51%) agreed that career and family are equally important.

(Source: Gender differences in specialty preference among medical Students at Aleppo University: a cross-sectional study)

The Factors Driving the Increase in Female Physicians

  • Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in the number of women pursuing medical careers and entering residency and fellowship programs. This trend has contributed to a more balanced gender distribution in many specialties.
  • Pediatrics (2,993), family medicine/general practice (4,456), and internal medicine (10,379) had the most first-year fellows and residents. Women made up 45.8% of ACGME-accredited program residents and fellows. The percentage of women in the 47 top specialties ranged from 12.9% in sports medicine (orthopedic surgery) programs to 83.8% in obstetrics and gynecology residency programs.
  • For the years 2014 -2019, first-year fellows and residents specialized more in neurology (up 25.2%), and sports medicine (up 29.1%) whereas plastic surgery (10.8%), ophthalmology (down 10.9%), and vascular and interventional radiology (10.5%) saw significant drops. Females (77%) rated the importance of both spouses’ careers in a relationship higher than males (56%). Similarly, more ladies (68%) than males (51%), agreed that both career and family are equally important.

(Source: American Association of Medical Colleges)

The Gender Gap in Medicine By Male and Female Doctors

The representation of male and female doctors in the workforce varies according to country as well as region. In many countries, the medical profession has traditionally been male-dominated, but there has been a noticeable increase in female doctors in recent years.

  • The World Health Organization i.e., WHO, estimates that women comprise approximately 70% of the health workforce globally. However, this figure includes a wide range of healthcare professions beyond just doctors.
  • In the United States, the gender distribution among doctors has been shifting. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data from 2020, women constituted approximately 38% of active physicians in the country. However, among medical school graduates, women have been outnumbering men recently. In 2020, women accounted for approximately 50.5% of medical school matriculants in the U.S.
  • The number of female doctors in the United Kingdom has also been increasing. According to the General Medical Council (GMC) data from 2020, approximately 46% of registered doctors in the UK were female. However, the representation of women varies across different specialties, with some fields having a higher proportion of female doctors than others. In Canada, the proportion of female doctors has been steadily increasing.
  • The proportion of female doctors in Canada has been gradually increasing. According to data from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), around 41% of physicians in Canada were female in 2019. Women have a stronger representation among younger physicians, accounting for around 52% of physicians aged 35 and under.

(Source: World Health Organization, Association of American Medical Colleges, General Medical Council, Canadian Medical Association)

Increase in Female Physicians in OECD Countries

  • Over the last 20 years, the share of women doctors has risen in most OECD countries, and women doctors are, on average younger than male doctors. Almost half of all doctors in OECD nations were female in 2019.
  • This ranged from less than a quarter in Korea and Japan to over three-quarters in Latvia and Estonia. Women doctors expanded fast in Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway, Spain, where in 2019, women accounted for more than 50% of all doctors. This trend is being driven by an increase in the number of young women enrolling in medical schools and the gradual retirement of more usually male generations of doctors.
  • Female doctors are likelier to work in general medicine and medical specializations such as pediatrics rather than surgical specialties. In 2019, GPs (family doctors) made up less than a quarter (23%) of all physicians on average across OECD nations, ranging from 6% in Greece and Korea to almost 50% in Canada, Portugal, and Chile. However, comparing the number of GPs between nations is problematic because of differences in how doctors are classified.

(Source: Health at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators)

The Salary Disparities Between Male and Female Doctors

  • The salary or compensation gap between men and women is also crucial and must be considered for all medical services. The gender salary gap among doctors can vary depending on the country, specialty, and other factors. However, it is important to note that there are multiple factors that can contribute to salary disparities, including experience, specialty choice, working hours, and negotiation skills, among others.
  • Studies have shown a gender salary gap among physicians in the United States. As per a 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, there was an overall unadjusted gender pay gap of approximately 27% among physicians. The gap persisted even after accounting for specialty, age, years of experience, and academic rank. However, it’s worth noting that the pay gap varied across different specialties, with some showing larger disparities than others.
  • In the United Kingdom, studies have also indicated the presence of a gender pay gap among doctors, although the extent of the gap can vary. A report published by the British Medical Association (BMA) in 2020 found that female doctors earned less than their male counterparts in general practice and hospital medicine. The report highlighted that the gender pay gap tended to widen as doctors progressed through their careers.
  • Research suggests a gender pay gap exists among doctors in Australia as well. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2019 found that female doctors earned, on average, 24.1% less than male doctors. The study also revealed that the gap was widest in the case of surgical specialties.

(Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, British Medical Association, Medical Journal of Australia)

Working Hours of Male and Female Doctors

  • The working hours of male and female doctors varied depending on various factors such as nation, specialty, personal preferences, and family responsibilities.  According to research, male doctors in the United States work more hours than their female counterparts. According to a 2019 study published in JAMA Network Open, men physicians work 2.2 hours more per week than female physicians. This disparity in working hours was observed across various disciplines.
  • Studies in the United Kingdom have similarly revealed variations in working hours between male and female doctors. According to a Medical Women’s Federation survey from 2018, female doctors in the UK were more likely to work part-time or with reduced working hours for various reasons, including family commitments and work-life balance considerations. As a result, men doctors worked more hours on average.
  • Similar to the United States and the United Kingdom, studies indicate that male doctors in Australia work longer hours than their female counterparts. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2019 found that male doctors worked, on average, 6.6 hours more per week than female doctors. This difference in working hours was observed across different specialties.

(Source: JAMA Network, 2018 Medical Women’s Federation Survey, Medical Journal of Australia)

The Impact of Maternity Leave on the NHS Workforce

  • Maternity leave statistics for female doctors can vary across countries and healthcare systems. From January 2014 to March 2020, 17.7% of dentists and doctors under 50 working in acute hospitals and the community in the U.K. took at least one maternity leave, and 3.7% were on maternity leave at any moment, according to the 2022 BMJ data. Women comprise almost 48% of all dentists and doctors, which rises to more than 50 % for those under 50. Because most women will become mothers during their professions, statistics show that over 17% of female dentists/doctors under 50 take maternity leave over six years. Approximately 3.4% of female nurses and midwives under 50 and 3.7% of female doctors and dentists under 50 are on maternity leave at any one moment.
  • From January 2014 to March 2020, approximately 17.1% of nurses and midwives, as well as 17.7% of female doctors and dentists under the age of 50 working in the NHS hospital and community sector, experienced at least one period of maternity leave. In a single year, the reduction in working hours resulting from maternity leave and subsequent decreased hours post-maternity leave is comparable to the impact of non-retention, where individuals leave the sector entirely.

Section 1

  • Over 90% of doctors/dentists/nurses/midwives continue their direct employment with the NHS in their respective sectors even two years after taking maternity leave. Women are less inclined to leave the NHS within 2 years following their maternity leave than their colleagues. The retention rates of nurses and midwives after maternity leave align closely with the retention rates of other public sector workers after their maternity leave.
  • After returning from maternity leave, a significant number of mothers in both the nursing/midwifery and doctor/dentist professions opt to switch to part-time work. On average, the contracted hours for nurses/midwives decrease to 75% of full-time, while for doctors/dentists, it drops to 85% of full-time. This shift is primarily driven by transitions to contracts ranging from 60% to 65%, or 80% of full-time hours. Two years after maternity leave, only approximately one in four nurses/midwives and less than two in five doctors/dentists continue to work full-time, contrasting with 84% of female nurses and midwives, and 94% of female doctors and dentists before maternity leave. However, it is worth noting that contracted hours below 50% of full-time are infrequent and lower compared to the rest of the public sector.

Section 2

  • The transition to part-time work after the birth of a child tends to be a long-term arrangement. On average, mothers who resume work on a part-time basis do not experience an increase in their contracted hours throughout the entire duration we observed, which could extend up to six years after giving birth. Even during the year after their youngest child reaches school age, their contracted hours remain unchanged, showing a sustained preference for part-time work.
  • After returning from maternity leave, the number of hours worked by nurses, midwives, doctors, and dentists in the NHS can vary significantly across different trusts. When ordering the trusts based on the percentage of nurses and midwives working full-time one to three years after maternity leave, approximately 25% of trusts had less than 20% of their staff working full-time. Conversely, in another 25% of trusts, at least 36% of nurses and midwives worked full-time. The situation is similar for doctors and dentists, with higher percentages overall, but still displaying a comparable range between trusts. Around 35% of doctors and dentists worked full-time in one-quarter of trusts, while in another 25% of trusts, at least 51% of doctors and dentists worked full-time.

(Source: British Medical Journal and National Health Service)

Patients Preferences for Doctors of Specific Gender

  • Patients’ preferences for doctors of a specific gender can impact the gender distribution of the clinical population in medical settings. A survey conducted at 4 clinics involving 185 adult patients revealed that 45% of the respondents expressed a preference for the gender of their physician. Among the participants, 12% of men and 43% of women preferred a female physician, while 9% of women and 31% of men preferred a male physician.
  • The reported preferences of female patients for male physicians vary widely, ranging from 11% to 75%. Some studies indicate that 16% to 34% of female patients prefer a female physician. It has been observed that women under the age of 20 tend to express a preference for female physicians.

(Source: Gale Academic)

Recent Developments

Acquisitions and Mergers:

  • Acquisition of a group of male and female-led medical practices by a healthcare management company in September 2023, consolidating their expertise and expanding their network of healthcare providers.
  • The merger between two prominent medical associations representing male and female doctors in December 2023, fostered collaboration and advocacy for gender equity in the medical profession.

New Product Launches:

  • Introduction of gender-specific continuing medical education (CME) programs addressing topics relevant to male and female doctors’ professional development needs in January 2024.
  • Launch of mentorship and networking platforms connecting male and female physicians to facilitate knowledge sharing and career advancement opportunities in March 2024.

Funding Rounds:

Series B funding round for a healthcare startup focused on supporting female physicians in February 2024, raising $30 million to expand their services and resources for female doctors.
Seed funding for a telemedicine platform specializing in men’s health consultations in April 2024, securing $10 million to enhance their platform and reach more patients.

Partnerships and Collaborations:

  • Collaboration between a medical school and a diversity organization in November 2023 to implement initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of male and female doctors from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Partnership between a healthcare institution and a gender equality nonprofit in March 2024 to develop strategies for promoting gender diversity and inclusivity in medical leadership positions.

Workforce Dynamics:

  • Male and female doctors are advocating for work-life balance and flexible scheduling options, leading to the adoption of policies such as part-time work arrangements and telecommuting in medical practices and hospitals.
  • There is a growing recognition of the unique challenges faced by male and female physicians, including gender bias, pay disparities, and barriers to career advancement, prompting initiatives to address these issues.

Investment Landscape:

  • Venture capital investments in healthcare startups focused on supporting male and female doctors totaled $2.8 billion in 2023, with a focus on companies offering solutions for gender equity, professional development, and work-life balance.
  • Strategic partnerships and acquisitions between healthcare organizations and gender-focused initiatives accounted for 45% of total investment activity in the male and female doctors market in 2023, reflecting growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity in healthcare.

Conclusion

Male and female doctors may differ in their choice of medical specialties. Some specialties, such as surgery and certain technical fields, tend to have more male doctors.

In contrast, others, such as pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology, may have a higher representation of female doctors. Various factors, including personal interests, work-life balance considerations, and societal expectations can influence these specialty preferences.

The distribution of male and female doctors in the workforce can vary across countries and healthcare systems.

Gender disparities may still exist in certain areas, with male doctors often having higher representation in leadership positions or higher-paying specialties.

Efforts are being made to address these disparities and promote gender equality in medicine. Some patients may have preferences regarding the gender of their doctors, which can influence their choices when seeking medical care.

FAQs

Do male and female doctors specialize in different areas of medicine?

Specializations in medicine are not determined by gender. Both male and female doctors can specialize in any medical field or subspecialty based on their interests, aptitude, and training.

Are there any differences in the quality of care provided by male and female doctors?

The quality of care provided by doctors is not determined by their gender. The quality of care depends on various factors, such as the doctor’s knowledge, skills, experience, and communication abilities, which can vary regardless of gender.

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Trishita Deb

Trishita Deb

Trishita has more than 7 years of experience in market research and consulting industry. She has worked in various domains including healthcare, consumer goods, and materials. Her expertise lies majorly in healthcare and has worked on more than 400 healthcare reports throughout her career.