Of all the medical specialties, the number of women in urology is lowest. In fact, according to the American Urological Association’s 2016 census, only 1,032—8.5 percent of the more than 12,000 practicing urologists in the U.S.—are women. This is not much improvement in the history of women in the profession, which began in 1962 with Elisabeth Pickett of New York, the first female urologist in the nation. In fact, as late as the mid-1980s, there were only 22 female urologists in the U.S. This contrasts with specialties such as pediatrics, in which women comprise 52 to 62 percent of the field.
It would seem that part of the reason for the dearth of women in urology is that the specialty itself, although dealing with both genders, spends significant time focused on the type of disorders pertinent to male genitalia and the reproductive system. This may have traditionally served as a deterrence to encouraging women to join its ranks.
Barriers to Entry
In addition to being a male-dominated field, the general hurdles to women in medicine also come into play in urology. These include:
- Greater challenges in work/life balance
- Salary disparities, with women earning significantly less despite similar backgrounds and experience*
- Difficulty in negotiating entry to studies and finding opportunities
- Lack of role models
More Interest from Female Doctors
However, despite drawbacks, modern trends suggest the field of urology is seeing an uptick in women. Overall numbers of women in the field bode well for urology, with women comprising more than half of medical school graduates in the country today. And although the growth of numbers in the urology profession remains slow, an estimated 25 percent of those currently training in this specialty are women.
In an indication that increased numbers of female medical school students are having an impact, there are also more young women entering the field of urology. According to the American Urological Association, there are higher percentages of practicing female urologists in the younger age groups (i.e. age 45 and under).
What’s more, female patients in particular gravitate to women urologists, making them more represented in important aspects of their field. Perhaps understandably, according to The Journal of Urology, while male surgeons perform more male-specific surgeries, female urologists currently perform a significantly higher percentage of surgeries for women.
Lori Jones, MD, a member of the medical staff at Partners In Urology, acknowledges that as a woman in a largely male-dominated field, both male and female patients tell her that they sometimes feel more comfortable discussing urologic issues with her. She says this is one of the gratifying aspects of her practice. “It is important for us to provide patients with the opportunity to see the type of practitioner they feel most comfortable with – male or female.”
Female Urologic Conditions
Below is a list of common conditions women encounter that can warrant treatment from a urologist, whether male or female.
Overactive bladder (OAB) – frequent, urgent urination
Incontinence – unintentional leaking of urine
Urinary tract infection (UTI) – usually caused by bacteria multiplying in the urinary tract
Pelvic pain – pain located between the belly button and the hips and due to a variety of causes
Bladder infection – usually caused by bacteria multiplying in the bladder
Interstitial cystitis – also known as painful bladder syndrome
Bladder pain – pain or pressure in and around the bladder, pelvis or perineum (the area between the anus and vulva)
Bladder cancer – malignant growths in the bladder
Vaginal prolapse – pelvic structures that move, or bulge, out of their normal positions
Partners In Urology treats both male and female conditions with the most advanced technologies available. We are renowned for our expertise and committed to compassionate care. Contact us for an appointment.
*According to a 2017 report from Doximity, a network for healthcare professionals, there is a 20 percent wage gap between male and female urologists. That can translate to about $100,000 per year in average salary.