Adopted by the 69th WMA General Assembly, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 2018


1.     The WMA notes the increasing trend around the world for women to enter medical schools and the medical profession, and believes that the study and the practice of medicine must be transformed to a greater or lesser extent in order to support all people who study to become or practice as physicians, of whatever gender. This is an essential process of modernization by which inclusiveness is promoted by gender equality. This statement proposes mechanisms to identify and address barriers causing discrimination between genders.

2.     In many countries around the world, the number of women studying and practicing medicine has steadily risen over the past decades, surpassing 50% in many places.

3.     This development offers opportunities for action, including in the following areas:

  • Greater emphasis on a proper balance of work and family life, while supporting the professional development of individual physicians.
  • Encouragement and actualization of women in academia, leadership and managerial roles.
  • Equalization of pay and employment opportunities for men and women, the elimination of gender pay gaps in medicine, and the removal of barriers negatively affecting the advancement of female physicians.

4.     The issue of women in medicine was previously recognized in the WMA Resolution on Access of Women and Children to Health Care and the Role of Women in the Medical Profession which, among other things, called for increased representation and participation in the medical profession, especially in light of the growing enrolment of women in medical schools. It also called for a higher growth rate of membership of women in National Medical Associations (NMAs)  through empowerment, career development, training and other strategic initiatives.


Increased presence of women in academia, leadership and management roles.

5.     National Medical Associations/Medical Schools/Employers are urged to facilitate the establishment of mentoring programs, sponsorship, and active recruitment to provide medical students and physicians with the necessary guidance and encouragement necessary to undertake leadership and management roles.

6.     NMAs should explore opportunities and incentives to encourage both men and women to pursue diverse careers in medicine and apply for fellowships, academic, senior leadership and management positions.

7.     NMAs should lobby for gender equal medical education and work policies.

8.     NMAs should encourage the engagement of both men and women in health policy organizations and professional medical organizations.

Work-Life Balance

9.     Physicians should recognize that an appropriate work-life balance is beneficial to all physicians, but that women may face unique challenges to work-life balance imposed by societal expectations concerning gender roles that must be addressed to solve the issue. Healthcare employers can show leadership and help tackle this imbalance by:

  • Ensuring women who go on maternity leave are able to access all their rights and entitlements;
  • Introducing programmes which encourage men as well as women to take parental leave, so that women are able to pursue their careers and men are able to spend important time with their families.

10.  Hospitals and other places of employment should strive to provide and promote access to high quality, affordable, flexible childcare for working parents, including the provision of onsite housing and childcare where appropriate. These services should be available to both male and female physicians, recognizing the need for a better work-life balance. Employers should provide information on available services which support the compatibility of work and family.

11.  Hospitals and other places of employment should be receptive to the possibility of flexible and family-friendly working hours, including part-time residencies, posts, and professional appointments.

12.  There is a need for increased research on alternative work schedules and telecommunication opportunities that will allow flexibility in balancing work-life demands.

13.  NMAs should advocate for the enforcement and, where necessary, the introduction of policy mandating appropriate paid parental leave and rights in their respective countries.

14.  Medical workplaces and professional organisations should have fair, impartial and transparent policies and practices to give all physicians and medical students equal access to employment, education and training opportunities in medicine.

Pregnancy and Parenthood

15.  It should be illegal for employers to ask applicants about pregnancy and/or family planning in relation to work.

16.  Employers should assess the risks to pregnant physicians and their unborn children, when a physician has recently given birth and when she is breastfeeding.  Where it is found, or a medical practitioner considers, that an employee or her child would be at risk were she to continue with her normal duties, the employer should provide suitable alternative work for which the physician should receive her normal rate of pay. Physician should have the right to not work night shifts or on-call shifts during the later part of pregnancy, without negative consequences on salary, employment or progression in residency.

17.  Pregnant physicians should have equal training opportunities in post-graduate training.

18.  Parents should have the right to take adequate parental leave without negative consequences on their employment, training or career opportunities.

19.  Parents should have the right to return to the same position after parental leave, without the fear of termination.

20.  Employers and training bodies should provide necessary support to any physician returning after a prolonged period of absence including parental, maternity and elder-care leave.

21.  Mothers should be able to breastfeed (or be given protected time for breast pumping) during work hours, within the current guidelines from the WHO.

22.  Workplaces should provide adequate accommodation for women who are breastfeeding including designated areas for breastfeeding, breast pumping, and milk storage, which are quiet, hygienic, and private.

Changes in organisational culture

23.  The medical profession and employers should work to eliminate discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender and create a supportive environment that allows equal opportunities for training, employment and advancement.

24.  Family friendliness should be part of the organizational culture of hospitals and other places of employment.

Workforce planning and research

25.  NMAs should encourage governments to take the increasing number of women entering medicine into consideration in the context of long-term workforce planning. A diverse workforce is beneficial to the health care system and to patients. Organizations delivering healthcare should focus on ensuring systems are appropriately resourced to ensure that all those working within them are able to deliver safe care to patients and are appropriately and equitably rewarded. Governments should also work to counteract negative attitudes and behaviour, bias, and/or outdated norms and values from organizations and individuals.

26.  NMAs should encourage governments to invest in research to identify those factors that drive women and men to choose certain fields of specialization early on in their medical education and training and strive to address any identified barriers in order to achieve equal representation of men and women in all fields of medicine.

27.  NMAs should encourage governments and employers to ensure that men and women receive equal compensation for commensurate work and strive to eliminate the gender pay gap in medicine.

Adopted by the 66th WMA General Assembly, Moscow, Russia, October 2015


In most cultures, an individual’s sex is assigned at birth according to primary physical sex characteristics. Individuals are expected to identify with their assigned sex (gender identity) and behave according to specific cultural norms strongly associated with this (gender expression). Gender identity and gender expression make up the concept of “gender” itself.

There are individuals who experience different manifestations of gender that do not conform to those typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. The term “transgender” refers to people who experience gender incongruence, which is defined as a marked mismatch between one’s gender and the sex assigned at birth.

While conceding that this is a complex ethical issue, the WMA would like to acknowledge the crucial role played by physicians in advising and consulting with transgender people and their families about desired treatments. The WMA intends this statement to serve as a guideline for patient-physician relations and to foster better training to enable physicians to increase their knowledge and sensitivity toward transgender people and the unique health issues they face.

Along the transgender spectrum, there are people who, despite having a distinct anatomically identifiable sex, seek to change their primary and secondary sex characteristics and gender role completely in order to live as a member of the opposite sex (transsexual). Others choose to identify their gender as falling outside the sex/gender binary of either male or female (genderqueer). The generic term “transgender” represents an attempt to describe these groups without stigmatisation or pathological characterisation. It is also used as a term of positive self-identification. This statement does not explicitly address individuals who solely dress in a style or manner traditionally associated with the opposite sex (e.g. transvestites) or individuals who are born with physical aspects of both sexes, with many variations (intersex). However, there are transvestites and intersex individuals who identify as transgender. Being transvestite or intersex does not exclude an individual from being transgender. Finally, it is important to point out that transgender relates to gender identity, and must be considered independently from an individual’s sexual orientation.

Although being transgender does not in itself imply any mental impairment, transgender people may require counseling to help them understand their gender and to address the complex social and relational issues that are affected by it. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5) uses the term “gender dysphoria” to classify people who experience clinically significant distress resulting from gender incongruence.

Evidence suggests that treatment with sex hormones or surgical interventions can be beneficial to people with pronounced and long-lasting gender dysphoria who seek gender transition. However, transgender people are often denied access to appropriate and affordable transgender healthcare (e.g. sex hormones, surgeries, mental healthcare) due to, among other things, the policies of health insurers and national social security benefit schemes, or to a lack of relevant clinical and cultural competence among healthcare providers. Transgender persons may be more likely to forego healthcare due to fear of discrimination.

Transgender people are often professionally and socially disadvantaged, and experience direct and indirect discrimination, as well as physical violence. In addition to being denied equal civil rights, anti-discrimination legislation, which protects other minority groups, may not extend to transgender people. Experiencing disadvantage and discrimination may have a negative impact upon physical and mental health.


  1. The WMA emphasises that everyone has the right to determine one’s own gender and recognises the diversity of possibilities in this respect. The WMA calls for physicians to uphold each individual’s right to self-identification with regards to gender.
  2.  The WMA asserts that gender incongruence is not in itself a mental disorder; however it can lead to discomfort or distress, which is referred to as gender dysphoria (DSM-5). 
  3. The WMA affirms that, in general, any health-related procedure or treatment related to an individual’s transgender status, e.g. surgical interventions, hormone therapy or psychotherapy, requires the freely given informed and explicit consent of the patient. 
  4. The WMA urges that every effort be made to make individualised, multi-professional, interdisciplinary and affordable transgender healthcare (including speech therapy, hormonal treatment, surgical interventions and mental healthcare) available to all people who experience gender incongruence in order to reduce or to prevent pronounced gender dysphoria.
  5.  The WMA explicitly rejects any form of coercive treatment or forced behaviour modification. Transgender healthcare aims to enable transgender people to have the best possible quality of life. National Medical Associations should take action to identify and combat barriers to care.
  6.  The WMA calls for the provision of appropriate expert training for physicians at all stages of their career to enable them to recognise and avoid discriminatory practises, and to provide appropriate and sensitive transgender healthcare.
  7. The WMA condemns all forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and violence against transgender people and calls for appropriate legal measures to protect their equal civil rights. As role models, individual physicians should use their medical knowledge to combat prejudice in this respect.
  8.  The WMA reaffirms its position that no person, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, medical condition or disability, should be subjected to forced or coerced permanent sterilisation (WMA Statement on Forced and Coerced Sterilisation). This also includes sterilisation as a condition for rectifying the recorded sex on official documents following gender reassignment.
  9.  The WMA recommends that national governments maintain continued interest in the healthcare rights of transgender people by conducting health services research at the national level and using these results in the development of health and medical policies. The objective should be a responsive healthcare system that works with each transgender person to identify the best treatment options for that individual.