Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Medical Careers and Feminist Agendas: American, Scandinavian, and Russian Women Physicians

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Medical Careers and Feminist Agendas: American, Scandinavian, and Russian Women Physicians

Article excerpt

In her probing analysis of the history and contemporary condition of women physicians in the United States, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Russia, Elianne Riska seeks to determine, through comparison, the various factors that shape women's status and experience as medical doctors. Working within a sociological framework, Riska assesses the limitations of most professionalization and organizational theory for explaining how gender functions in the medical profession. She adopts what she calls an "embedded approach," which "conceptualizes any organization as a socially situated practice and sees gender as embedded in any organization of society" (p. 21). To Riska's credit, she interprets "socially situated" to mean not only the current economic and political characteristics of a particular professional setting, but also the historical conditions that produced that situation. She examines the past 100 years of women's medical practice in the United States, Scandinavia, and Russia, devoting one chapter to each country. In her comparative historical overview, Riska points out that American (and 19th-century Russian) women doctors fought to gain status in an autonomous, rigorously self-regulated liberal profession, whereas Scandinavian women encountered very different challenges to equality in a state-run public health system. In the early decades of the 20th century, Scandinavian women were barred from public-sector medical institutions, in which higher salaries and professional status prevailed. Instead, they were confined to the less prestigious private sector. Riska rightly argues that without understanding the historical, economic, and social contexts, we cannot accurately interpret statistics that show, for example, that in 1990, women made up approximately 17% of doctors in the United States, 42% in Finland, and more than 70% in what was still the Soviet Union.

While the numbers of women physicians are increasing in the United States and Scandinavia (to the point that women will soon constitute the majority of doctors in Finland), these statistics do not necessarily indicate that equality has or will soon be reached. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.