The Gender Pain Gap

What it is and how we're closing it

You’ve probably heard of the gender pay gap, but odds are, you aren’t as well acquainted with the gender health gap… let alone the gender pain gap.

Despite all the leaps and bounds that have been made on the road to achieving gender equality and inclusivity, there are still countless gaps and cracks women fall through when it comes to one of the most important areas of our lives – our health.

The cold, hard truth is that in this day and age, your gender can still hold you back from receiving the medical care you need and deserve.

Allow us to introduce you to the anomaly known as the gender health pain gap. The gender pain gap acts as proof that your gender actually influences your healthcare experience. Tough pill to swallow, hey?

Healthcare for women is uniquely influenced by our hormones, so it only makes sense that our care providers understand the extensive impacts hormones can have on our bodies, as well as the types of conditions that can only affect people with female reproductive organs…right?

We shouldn’t be made to feel like we’re asking for too much. But as we continue to experience gender bias, medical dismissal and misdiagnoses, we’re shown that medical professionals often don’t see us, they don’t hear us, and they don’t believe us.

To understand the Gender Pain Gap, we need to take a step back and look at the Gender Health Gap.

History of the Gender Health Gap

The Gender Health Gap is not a new phenomenon. It’s an incredibly flawed chapter of human history that was born from misogyny.

To fully understand the reasons the gender health gap (and the Gender Pain Gap), let’s take a look at the historical context of misogyny in healthcare and medical research.

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5th Century BC

To many history buffs, Aristotle is perceived as the father of modern medicine.

While this may be true, we’re also not afraid to recognise him as the man who described the female body as “mutilated”, “incomplete males” who weren’t only biologically and intellectually inferior to men, but also served no other purpose apart from bearing and raising children. This belief was injected into Ancient Greek society and held by many for years.

The flattering views of the female anatomy don’t stop there, unfortunately.

While we can now recognise that hormones, anatomy and genetics are some of the main reasons why men and women AFAB are so different from one another, the same beliefs weren’t held by physicians thousands of years ago.

Both Hippocrates and Plato believed that the reason women were so different from men was the result of our wandering wombs. Stay with us here.

Forget PMS, a wandering womb was the belief that the uterus would literally evacuate a woman’s womb and travel throughout the body, causing an array of physical and psychological symptoms.

4th Century BC

old textbook illustration of a doctor forcing a women's womb up

18th–19th Century AC

Despite the history of this disease dating back to ancient times, Hysteria didn’t become widely popularised until the 18th and 19th centuries (once we finally moved away from the wandering womb theory – phew).

Hysteria was a damning diagnosis, and a label that was mainly reserved for those with a uterus. Of course. Hysteria was the blanket term used to diagnose PMS symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, changes in appetite, and sexual desire.

The worst part? A hysteria diagnosis could land any misunderstood woman in a mental asylum.

an image from an old scientific textbook displaying a 'hysteric' women's face

Fast forward to the early 20th century. Doctors finally began to understand the incredible complexities of the female body, the endocrine system, and finally, our hormones and menstrual cycle.

So surely, things started to improve for us…right?

Nope. As medical advancements continued to be made and more and more research went into understanding the human body, women were left behind once again.

Why? Meet the research gap.

20th Century AC

The Research Gap

Enter the ‘default’ human.  He’s a 70 kilogram, white man. And, in case you weren’t already aware, the very fundamentals of what we know about human biology is based on him.

There is an assumption in health research that the 70kg white man is reflective of all people, and, as such, is what much of our health and medical knowledge is based on.

Statue of Michelangelo's David

Until 1993, the FDA had banned women from participating in clinical research because:


Of the fear that our fertility would be impacted – and what good are we to society if we can’t bear and raise children?


Women were seen as more difficult and more expensive to study than men because of the many variables we had.

In the 30 years since the ban on women participating in clinical research was lifted, not as much progress has been made as you might think.

Severe underrepresentation of diverse female body types in clinical testing has led to confusion and ignorance surrounding the specific ways in which female hormones can affect:

• How we metabolise medicine.
• The ways in which we experience pain.
• The types of diseases certain groups are more likely to suffer from.

So…if we’ve been left out of medical research for so long, what about the conditions that only impact people with female reproductive organs?

What research gets done then?
Unfortunately, not a whole lot.

Female-specific conditions are still underserved and underfunded. Less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated to female reproductive health.

Angry? You should be.

This massive gap in research only further contributes to why it takes 7+ years on average to receive an endometriosis diagnosis and why 70% of PCOS cases remain undiagnosed.

The Gender Pain Gap Today

We’re no longer in the Dark Ages, so why are women still having such a hard time receiving care in this day and age?

The effects of the Research Gap
Blind spots in the exam room
The pain of unconscious gender bias
Inadequate access to the support we need

The Cost of the Gender Pain Gap

Women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed when having a heart attack

1 in 3 women have had their health concerns dismissed

Approx 75% of chronic pain sufferers are women, but 80% of pain study participants are men

Women are 25% less likely to receive pain relief

Women are more likely to receive sedatives instead of pain medication

The average gap between initial symptoms and diagnosis of endometriosis is 7+ years

illustration of woman holding her legs

introducing hazel

We’re on a mission to close the gender pain gap and change the future of healthcare.
Once and for all.

To shine a light on under-researched, under-funded and misunderstood female pain and gynaecological conditions. To fight for more research, more funding and greater understanding of the causes, treatments and symptoms. And to be a safe space for our community to learn about and receive treatment for their pain with a care provider who finally hears them.

Join the movement
3 phones showing Hazel's platform

You’re not alone.
Not anymore.

We see you, and we hear you.

For too long, women have been left to suffer in silence, often alone. That ends with us.

If you would like to share your story with other like-minded individuals in the Hazel community, drop it here

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