International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Gender and Medicine: Pregnancy and Gender Discrimination in the US and German Medicine

Katharina Rothe, University of Leipzig; Kathleen Poege, Leipzig University

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: University of Leipzig, Germany
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

Gender relations in the medical field have changed impressively within one century. For example, in Germany, as recently as the early 20th-century, women were not allowed to become medical doctors. Today, however, about two thirds of the medical students in Germany and the U.S. are women. Still, issues surrounding pregnancy and motherhood are a crucial factor in keeping a glass ceiling clearly in place in hospitals and universities.
In a longitudinal research project, Career Paths and Career Breaks of Women Medical Doctors during Residency, qualitative and quantitative methods are combined in order to investigate this gender gap psychosocially. Through theme-centered qualitative interviews with medical doctors in Germany and the U.S., this paper explores gendered mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, as well as analyzes the impact of social policies on gender roles.
We will present an international comparative case study regarding gender discrimination experienced by women doctors when they became pregnant. For example, in both the U.S. and German interviews, the reactions of superiors to pregnancy frequently lead to the women doctors giving up or interrupting their careers. Further, this cannot be understood without the shared assumption and anticipation that the fathers will not engage in early childcare at all.
This paper posits that such assumptions should be challenged, and we will discuss the thesis that socio-political change favors changes in gender roles, and that this in fact, in a small way, is already occurring. In Germany, for example, since the legislation of parental leave for mothers and fathers, a small percentage of fathers do take paternal leave. Through issues such of these, the intertwinement of the political and the psychosocial regarding continuities and vicissitudes of gender roles will be discussed.