At a time of strictly observed gender roles, it was very rare for a woman to seek a medical education. In 1849—a year before WMCP opened—Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in America to earn a medical degree, from New York’s Geneva Medical College. Her initial application was subject to a vote by the all-male student body. Assuming that it was a joke, they all voted “yes.”
[Del Mundo] humorously relates that when she arrived in Boston and went to the dormitory assigned her in a letter from the director of the hospital housing, much to her surprise she found herself in a men's dorm. Unknowingly the Harvard officials had admitted a female to their all-male student body. But because her record was so strong the head of the pediatrics department saw no reason not to accept her. Thus, upsetting Harvard tradition, she became the first Philippine woman and the only female at the time to be enrolled at the Harvard Medical School.
Raut became a doctor when modern medicine was in its infancy, which is noteworthy. Even in Britain, which established the first medical college for women in 1874, there weren't many women practising doctors at the time. Her life in India was certainly unusual, as women were mostly confined to the home at the time, which makes her achievements all the more striking.
“Most universities or research organizations are on board to try to increase the number of women, and they think that that’s somehow going to solve all the problems,” Londa Schiebinger, one of Nielsen’s co-authors and his former mentor at Stanford, said. “But universities typically don’t understand how to fix the knowledge aspect. And I think that’s what’s so important about our study: it shows a link between the participation issue, the diversity on teams, and excellent knowledge outcomes.”
Too often, educators seemed to operate based on stereotypes and unwarranted assumptions. “The challenge with being a little brown girl is that when you tell people it’s your aspiration to be a doctor, they don’t believe you can do it,” one physician told us. “They try to push you into nursing or something else where they have seen someone like you.”