2007年03月02日

In a Men's World: Women in the Medical Profession in Taiwan, 1950-1995.

In a Men's World: Women in the Medical Profession in Taiwan, 1950-1995.



Ling-fang Cheng

Associate Prof. & Director of Graduate Instituteof Gender Studies,
Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan
lingfang@kmu.edu.tw


The paper will first give an historical overview of the masculine formation of the medical profession in Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule. Its masculine formation, such as no medical education for women who had to attain in Japan instead, is clearly illustrated in comparison with that in China where co-education was the policy and women constituted 50% of the medical students. The specific historical formation paved the way for the masculine dominance of the post-colonial development of the medical profession.

I adopted two theoretical perspectives in explaining the formation process of a masculine profession during the period of 1950-1995, institutional exclusion and cultural inclusion. As far as the institutional exclusion is concerned, I note that medical students come mainly from middle-class background, especially more women than men. As they turned to choice of specialties, women graduates had to choose minor specialties which were the others except for four major specialties, such as surgery, ob-gyn, pediatrics, internal medicine. Had they had to choose the major four specialties, they had to wait for male classmates to complete their military service. Some specialties had limited quota for women due to the concern of maternal leave. Residential training structure in medical centers was in a pyramid form which means residents were selected at each level up to visiting staff; women were excluded for various reasons, such as they were secondary wage earner in the family, so the priority should give to men.

In terms of career promotion, the institutional exclusion was not as blatant as that appeared in choice of specialties and residential selection. However, it involves more of the patriarchal cultural inclusion. For instance, studying abroad increases the professional capital which was essential for promotion, and usually it was men rather than women who could take the advantage due to the patriarchal arrangement of family and work. The patriarchal family duty on women professionals prevented them from broadening their social network and reduced the length of time investing in the professional learning and training, as a result many women professionals find themselves slow down in professional progress especially during the first decade of raising children. The patriarchal value and structure have been invisible but essential to maintain the gender relations in the medical profession.

In the last decade in Taiwan, as liberal and gender equity discourses gradually gained some influence, the medical profession, like the other professions, was going through some restructuring. The institutional exclusion as practiced before has gradually crumbled and left some room for gender equity; however, the patriarchal cultural inclusion is still persistent and probably takes various forms in practice. Women physicians now in Taiwan have formed two organizations, which are for social networking rather than feminist action. Younger women professionals are educated in a more liberal and gender friendly environment, this would enable them to demand more equality at work. A small group of feminist historians and sociologists have actively produced critique on gender and medicine, the research they produced hopefully could have some impact on creating gender equity in the medical profession in the future.

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