BIAS: Inequality in Women's Health and Research
We all do it, we make assumptions and assess a situation using a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment. But do we know this makes us susceptible to unconscious bias and prejudice?
In a healthcare setting, such bias can prevent healthcare professionals from taking women’s concerns seriously and potentially exposing women to unnecessary and prolonged harm. Apart from gender, a patient’s ethnicity also influences a healthcare professional’s interpretation of the patient’s complaints. In an educational setting, biases can prevent a female from pursuing a career in science, technology engineering, maths or medicine.
Not only this, the historical exclusion of women from medicine and clinical research, and prior assumptions that the male body represents the norm have led to a wider knowledge gap: we know that women and men respond differently to diseases and drugs used to treat them, but most data we have does not account for sex differences.
BIAS aims to encourage national dialogue and debate around biases that still exist in our society and prevent women from pursuing a career in STEM, receiving adequate healthcare, and benefiting from research findings. The first steps to tackle biases is to create safe spaces where people will not feel ashamed to talk about these topics, create female role models that teenagers can refer to when choosing their career path, to move away from the one-size-fits-all way of thinking, and acknowledging each person’s specific needs based on their age, civil status, ability, gender, race and ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.