Survey reveals extent of gender bias in health care

Friday, 08 March, 2024

Survey reveals extent of gender bias in health care

Two out of three women experience discrimination in health care, according to a new survey.

Almost 3000 women, healthcare professionals and peak stakeholder groups participated in the #EndGenderBias survey, which asked Australian women to share their experiences of the health system.

The most common aspects of care in which women experienced gender bias were in relation to diagnosis and treatment. Some women reported having symptoms or pain dismissed or were given insufficient treatment recommendations like paracetamol and a hot water bottle.

Consistent themes included feeling dismissed and disbelieved; being stereotyped as ‘hysterical’ and a ‘drama queen’. Women reported that their symptoms and pain were often attributed to other causes such as menstruation, lifestyle factors or even ‘faking it’.

One woman responded: “Within the first few moments of meeting me, [the doctor] had decided I was a ‘waste of time’, a hysterical woman with a non-urgent problem who was being dramatic.”

These women’s voices and experiences of medical misogyny will be put under the microscope by women’s health experts at the 2024 National Women’s Health Summit. Due to be held at Parliament House on 14 March, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney will reveal the full findings of the survey at the event.

“The results of the #EndGenderBias survey whilst shocking are not surprising,” Kearney said.

“For too long, women have been suffering unnecessarily. They’ve been dismissed, ignored and called hysterical.

“It is unacceptable that two-thirds of women experience bias and discrimination in Australia’s health system. It’s time we acted on this.”

The summit will bring together experts, policymakers, community advocates and women with lived experience to discuss how Australia can fundamentally transform the health system to improve access to health care, services and outcomes for women.

Among the speakers at the summit are:

  • Sarah White, CEO of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
  • Gabrielle Jackson, author of Pain and Prejudice
  • Nyadol Nyuon, Chair Harmony Alliance
  • Members of the Women’s Health Advisory Council

The summit will also cover issues from birthing on country and maternity care, to medical research, access to health for rural women and women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, among other issues.

The summit has been funded by the Australian Government and organised by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

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