Gender disparity in healthcare

India still has some way to go in achieving a balance between men a d women in societal norms and behaviour. An insight by Deepali Jetley,Chief Peoples Officer, Marengo Asia Hospitals

Gender discrimination is a crucial determinant across the different aspects of society – be it cultural,  psychological, physical or financial. Since ancient times, not only it exists in the eastern part of the globe, but in the western parts as well. Although with time, academicians, social workers and leaders across the market have raised voices in favour of gender equality, India still has some way to go in achieving a balance between men and women in societal norms and behaviour. Starting from the age of a girl and a boy eligible for marriage, (a girl is eligible to marry at 18, whereas a boy becomes eligible at 21) to the ratio of employment of women and even the pay scale in the workforce, the gender gap is a constant.


Gender is a major contributing factor to health for women and men in India. For women, it is a continuous juggle between managing the home and managing workplace/outside chores, and they often neglect their health and well-being. Although the undeniable truth is that the healthcare need of women is more than men due to their reproductive, hormonal and sexual health needs. According to the findings of the NHFS (National Family Health Survey), close to 60 per cent of women in the country face trouble accessing healthcare for themselves and
approximately 31.2 per cent of women reported concerns about no female healthcare professional available at
healthcare centres, especially in therural areas of the country.

Furthermore, around 13.5 per cent of women said they didn’t get  permission to get medical treatment. The NFHS also found that merely 10.1 per cent  of women  (between 15-49 years of age) in the country can take independent decisions about their healthcare compared to 33.3 per cent of men.[i] Women become victims of gender bias in terms of employment as well. India has a long-standing portrayal of women as sacrificing models – a woman is supposed to leave her job if her family does not permit it or her husband is working somewhere and the responsibility of managing the household automatically gets assigned to women. In terms of wages, even in Bollywood and sports in our country, women get lesser remuneration compared to their male counterparts. As per a joint report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), women in the health and wellness sector face a larger gender pay gap than in other economic sectors, earning on average 24 per cent less than men.

Overall, since the mental conditioning of Indian women tends to have morepatience, tolerance and silence, despite the awareness, women struggle to overcome societal and behavioural boundaries. Therefore, it is the
responsibility of the policymakers, academicians and industry leaders to work together and raise awareness about gender equality and empower women with proper knowledge, so that they can come forward and claim the rights that they deserve. Apart from the policymakers, it also comes under the duty of HR professionals to ensure
a safe environment in the workplace so that women do not feel insecure or biased. However, it will take a long  time to bring justice to the pay scale and equality in terms of the employment ratio.

The healthcare ecosystem of India needs strong advocacy so that women in the healthcare industry feel  encouraged to perform better. Specialities like Gynaecology, Psychiatry, have witnessed women academically at
the forefront. On the other hand, men dominate specialities like Cardiology, Neurology, Urology, etc. Women  need to be encouraged to take up specialities across the healthcare industry that has seen men dominate to close the gap of gender disparity.

The other need of the hour is to highlight the gap that still exists in rural areas when it comes to healthcare
infrastructure and awareness about women’s health. Much more strategic effort are required to improve women’s labour force participation on a larger scale and ensure that they get the same earnings as men for the same work. Social expenditure needs to be targeted in such a way that it eradicates  the current inequities and assists in upgrading the status of women in society.

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