Medical school enrollment has traditionally been dominated by men—until now. The number of women enrolling in med school surpassed men for the first time last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Women represented 50.7 percent of the 21,338 med school enrollees in 2017. Female matriculants increased by 3.2 percent, while male matriculants declined by 0.3 percent. The overall number of U.S. med school matriculants rose 1.5 percent with total enrollment at 89,904 students.
What does this mean for women in medicine?
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“It’s important because women have been underrepresented in medicine for a long time, and we really strive to have a workforce that reflects the general working population,” says Alison Whelan, MD, chief medical education officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“Overall, a workplace that reflects a 50-50 balance is reasonable, so we should continue the effort to maintain this balance, and make sure it’s not just a onetime blip and then goes back down again,” says Whelan.
Why are More Women going to Med School?
Entering classes at the nation’s medical schools continue to diversify. From 2015 to 2017, African American matriculants increased by 12.6 percent, and Hispanic, Latino and matriculants of Spanish origin rose by 15.4 percent. It’s no surprise women followed suit.
Whelan says increasing diversity has been a long-time goal. Pipeline programs that encourage young women and girls to enroll in medicine as well as other sciences, where they’ve been traditionally underrepresented, are paying off. These K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs encourage gender equality.
“Oftentimes, showcasing role models and mentors for women, these programs and others encourage minority populations to apply,” says Whelan.