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International Women's Day!

On #IWD2019, blogger Jess reflects on the role of women in the world of medicine.

In the UK today, women make up 47% of the total workforce, 55% of medical students and 54% of all doctors in training. However, senior medical positions (i.e. consultancy) are held by men in 68% of cases. Evidently, equality has not quite saturated the medical profession.

In the realms of medical leadership, women are under-represented: a third of consultants and the minority of deans, professors and medico-politicians. Studies have found that male and female doctors work differently, but there is no clear answer as to why women do not progress to consultancy and other senior positions.

It's no great secret that surgery is a particularly male-dominated specialty – only 32% of trainees are women. The specialties with the highest proportion of female trainees include public health, paediatrics, obstetrics & gynaecology and sexual & reproductive health.

There is correlation between female-dominated specialties and those with a higher proportion of less than full time trainees, and less than full time trainees are almost entirely women. Are these specialties intrinsically more appealing to women? Are they more accommodating to less than full time trainees? Is institutional sexism or stereotyping damaging female recruitment?

Organisations like the Medical Women’s Federation exist to champion female medics and promote their development. They encourage female doctors to advance their careers and particularly support less than full time training – an option which should be open and accessible for male and female doctors. With high profile women like Chief Medical Officer and former haematologist Sally Davies to inspire new medics, we can be optimistic about the future for medical women!


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