gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Equal opportunities between women and men in medicine – a key concern of science policy in Baden-Württemberg

Abstract medicine

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  • corresponding author Klaus Tappeser - Tappeser GmbH, Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany

GMS Z Med Ausbild 2012;29(2):Doc36

doi: 10.3205/zma000806, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0008060

This is the English version of the article.
The German version can be found at:

Received: March 16, 2011
Revised: May 23, 2011
Accepted: June 3, 2011
Published: April 23, 2012

© 2012 Tappeser.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


Equal opportunities between women and men is a key concern in the science policy of Baden-Württemberg. This is particularly true for medicine. If we look at the medical schools of Baden-Württemberg in 2009, it is striking that while the proportion of female graduates stands at 59.4%, the proportion of female professors is no more than 10.5%. And while woman represent 57.1% of doctorates, at the next level there is a sharp fall - with only 17.6% of women holding a post-doctoral degree.

But not only academia is missing out on these young female doctors following their graduation but also the healthcare system.

Of all working female doctors in Germany, 39% held no specialisation in 2008. One reason for this might be the duration of specialist training, which can take up to 8 years if in part-time employment.

If women choose to specialise at all, they mainly choose aspects of internal medicine, general medicine, gynaecology, anaesthesiology and paediatrics and adolescent medicine. In surgical specialties such as surgery, there are 427 working female doctors against 3002 males.

In view of the increasing proportion of women in medical studies on the one hand and the increasing emigration rate of female and male doctors to other European countries due to better pay and more family-friendly working conditions on the other hand, we must do everything possible to make medicine more family-friendly in Germany.

The compatibility of a scientific career and the family

Better compatibility of a scientific career and the family is one of the main pillars of the gender policy of the Ministry of Science. In Baden-Württemberg 6% of all students have children.

In order to make studying more family-friendly for students with children, we support variable speed study modes. And in medicine we support the project “Family-Friendlyness in Medicine” which provides the framework for today’s conference. In addition, the legislature intends to supplement the State’s Higher Education Act so that in future it will be a statutory responsibility of universities and university hospitals to ensure better compatibility of family and work. Many universities have already recognised the need for family-friendly personnel policies.

For example, the University and the University Hospital Ulm have acquired a certificate from “audit berufundfamilie” (‘career and family audit’) or “audit familiengerechte hochschule” (‘family-friendly university audit’) offered by the Hertie Foundation. The University of Heidelberg is currently undergoing the audit process. The University of Freiburg received the "Total Equality" grade. In all these models it was agreed to develop flexible work schedules. I would therefore be interested to know how many senior physician posts at the University Hospitals in Baden-Württemberg are currently part-time. This is an organisational challenge for service planners without any doubt but nonetheless an achievable goal, as the district hospital Sinsheim has shown where all posts of chief physician are now part-time in the gynaecology department.

Universities are already showing their family-friendliness in many ways:

  • Many universities, for example the University of Freiburg, have a family service which serves both students and academics with children as a first port of call in case of problems.
  • There are numerous changing facilities and parents’ rooms on campus.
  • Together with student unions, adequate childcare is being put in place. The Association for Student Affairs in Baden-Württemberg now offers a total of 863 nursery places for the children of students.
  • Halls of residence have special apartments for families and by now high chairs and children’s tableware are standard in canteens.
  • Baden-Württemberg’s Higher Education Act envisages that all examination regulations must allow students with family responsibilities flexible examination dates. It is also possible for students with children to acquire course certificates while on official leave from university holidays.
  • Finally, students with children can be exempted from tuition fees. The applicable age limit for the child was raised from 8 to 14 years.

Support in a scientific career

In the scientific career of a female doctor the birth of a child often terminates their careers. After graduation, most women are lost to academia. Across subjects, approximately 77% of women and 72% of men in academia who do not hold a professorship are without children. These figures are alarming. The Ministry of Science therefore has designed grant programs such as the Brigitte Schlieben-Lange Program and the Margarethe von Wrangell Program to help young female doctors to combine healthcare, scientific training and family life successfully. The University of Heidelberg has also set up its own short-term grant program for female doctors in specialist training offering funding for a 3 to 6 month exemption from clinical and routine service.

In parallel, the Ministry of Science promotes the creation of childcare offers for academic staff, in particular models which ensure care for young children is available in case of emergencies.

With all these measures we are trying to keep young female doctors with children or plans for children in academia.

To ensure sufficient doctors of all disciplines in Germany, including rural areas, the daily work of physicians of both genders, especially at clinics, has to become more family-friendly.

So as chairman of two university hospitals, I’m doing my very best to ensure family-friendly personnel policies and I wish all participants a successful conference.

Competing intersts

The author declares that he has no competing interests.