Although rarely addressed until the last decade, there is an undeniable gender bias in healthcare which continues to be a persistent challenge for patients and professionals. This bias shapes the choice and quality of treatment for women and can even direct diagnoses.

Despite recent breakthroughs and the growing conversation around women’s healthcare, disparities continue to plague medical systems worldwide highlighting the need for reform and awareness.

Understanding Gender Bias

Gender bias refers to favouritism or prejudice towards or against someone based on their gender identity.

In healthcare, it affects many areas from attitude and assumptions to diagnostic discrepancies and treatment options. These are rooted in societal stereotypes and systemic inequalities.

Impact on Women’s Healthcare

Ignorance around women’s unique needs, especially in terms of gynaecology and female-specific healthcare, has had a major impact on women’s healthcare.


Stereotypes and/or a lack of understanding have been shown to affect the accuracy of assessments, even in the case of non-gender-specific medical issues. Recently it was cited that women are 30% more likely to be misdiagnosed or have their condition ignored completely in comparison to men.


In addition to misdiagnoses, women are fighting against mistreatment. When conditions are identified, they are treated with medicines primarily designed for and tested on men.

Women were largely excluded from clinical research trials in the UK until the 1990s and continue to be underrepresented, especially in early-stage tests.


Women regularly suffer from medical malpractice, especially in terms of gynaecological health.

In the UK alone, half a million women are on gynaecology waiting lists and it can take a decade for fibroids – growths in the uterus that can cause extreme pain – to be diagnosed and removed.

The sense of not being taken seriously by doctors has contributed to a rise in gynaecology medical negligence claims made against healthcare professionals as misdiagnoses and delayed treatment can cause serious health issues and even fatalities.

Ethnic Minority Women

Challenges are compounded for ethnic minority women who can also face racial prejudice. The double discrimination alongside cultural barriers, language discrepancies and socioeconomic disparities amplifies the risk of healthcare failures.

Most concerningly, there is a much higher rate of maternal mortality among black women in the UK. All reports since the turn of the millennium show a greater risk for mothers from ethnic minority backgrounds, with black women seven times more likely to die than white mothers between 2000 and 2002 and four times more likely to die today.

Initiatives for Change

Thankfully, the last few years have seen the silence broken on gender bias in healthcare. Campaigns led by victims and medical professionals alike are paving the way to a fairer future for women.

The UK government has launched a Women’s Health Strategy with ambitions and actions designed to close the gender gap. This includes running reproductive health surveys and investing in controlled trials on treating endometriosis.

It has already helped to lower the cost of female-specific healthcare through initiatives like removing the tax on period products and making contraception free of charge.

Not-for-profit platforms like The Lowdown are springing up alongside this to give instant access to expert advice on gynaecological problems and female contraception.

These aim to combat the anxiety women feel around female-specific healthcare and to ensure equal access to information regardless of race, background and other aspects that can influence professional help.

Zoe Harrison

Zoe Harrison, a Wellness Coach with a Master's degree in Health Psychology from UCLA, has been inspiring our readers since 2021. Her 15-year journey in lifestyle coaching, including a stint at a renowned wellness retreat, equips her to offer insights into holistic living. Her articles often reflect her belief in the power of mindfulness and balanced living. Zoe's passion for healthy living is evident in her practical and engaging articles. Outside her writing, she's an enthusiastic yogi and a promoter of community wellness programs.

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