Objective: To describe the development to date of the percentage of female physicians and to predict the situation in 2027, including a calculation of the number of physicians needed.
Design: Retrospective data collection, description and analysis.
Method: Using historical data from Statistics Netherlands and the Dutch certification boards ofgeneral practitioners, clinical specialists, and public and occupational health physicians, the percentage ofwomen among medical students, residents and specialists was calculated for the period between 1950 and 2007. For the prediction of the percentage of women among clinical specialists in 2027, model calculations prepared by The Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) on behalf of the national committee set up to determine current and future specialist training capacity were used, taking into account the effect of part-time jobs.
Results: In 1987 about 20% of all physicians and 15% of all specialists were female. In 2007 this had risen to 40% of all physicians and 34% of all specialists. In 2027 approximately 66% of all physicians and 55% of all specialists will be female. Due to the higher percentage of women 6% more practicing specialists will be needed. This requires an increase of 11% in the number of specialists and physicians in training.
Conclusion: The percentage of women among physicians and medical students indicates that, numerically, medicine is indeed 'feminising' and that this process will continue in the coming years. The implications in terms of the number of specialists needed and training capacity are smaller than generally assumed. Other developments, such as an ageing population, will have a greater impact on the demand for physicians.