Gender Distribution in Medical Leadership Roles in Portugal: The Example of Candidacy to Bodies of the Portuguese Medical Association 2017-2019

Miguel Cabral, Margarida Paixão, Andreia Leite


Introduction: Gender equality is one of the sustainable development goals. Low participation of women in leadership roles is an example of gender inequality. In Portugal, there are few studies regarding gender inequality in medical leadership roles. Therefore, we aimed to analyse gender distribution of candidates to regional bodies of the Portuguese Medical Association.
Material and Methods: We extracted data from the candidates to the regional bodies of the Portuguese Medical Association (2017 - 2019 mandate) from the Association’s magazine (issue number 175). We calculated the percentage of women candidates, overall and stratified by list, region and roles. We obtained observed-vs-expected ratios overall and by region, and respective 95% confidence intervals, assuming a Poisson distribution. Finally, we conducted a sensitivity analysis, excluding substitute candidates.
Results: Women accounted for 37% of the candidates (regional variation: 29% - 51%). The national observed-vs-expected ratio was 0.74 (95% confidence interval: 0.58; 0.92), mainly driven by the ratio from the South Region: 0.58 (95% confidence interval: 0.41; 0.80). Women ran mainly for alternate candidates and secretary positions (56% and 54% respectively).
Discussion: Gender differences were identified, particularly in the South, regarding the frequency and type of candidacy. Previous works have identified maternity, the social role of women and perceptions regarding the leadership roles as possible reasons to explain such differences. Our analysis is limited to specific leadership roles and an election moment; further studies should be pursued.
Conclusion: We identified a lower than expected participation of women in the elections for the Portuguese Medical Association. When they run, women are found mainly in less relevant positions or with less potential to be elected (secretary or alternate candidate). A deeper understanding and measures to fight gender inequality in leadership roles are required.


Gender Identity; Leadership; Portugal; Sexism; Societies, Medical

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