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Does medicine still show an unresolved discrimination against women? Experience in two European university hospitals


Have invisible barriers for women been broken in 2007, or do we still have to break through medicine's glass ceiling? Data from two of the most prestigious university hospitals in Barcelona with 700-800 beds, Hospital Clínic (HC) and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (HSCSP) address this issue. In the HSCSP, 87% of the department chairs are men and 85% of the department unit chiefs are also men. With respect to women, only 5 (13%) are in the top position (department chair) and 4 (15%) are department unit chiefs. Similar statistics are also found at the HC: 87% of the department chairs and 89% of the department unit chiefs are men. Currently, only 6 women (13%) are in the top position and 6 (11%) are department unit chiefs. Analysis of the 2002 data of internal promotions in HC showed that for the first level (senior specialist) sex distribution was similar. Nevertheless, for the second level (consultant) only 25% were women, and for the top level (senior consultant) only 8% were women. These proportions have not changed in 2007 in spite of a 10% increase in leadership positions during this period. Similar proportions were found in HSCSP where 68% of the top promotions were held by men. The data obtained from these two different medical institutions in Barcelona are probably representative of other hospitals in Spain. It would be ethically desirable to have males and females in leadership positions in the medical profession.

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