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Female Doctors Facing Barriers to Careers in Education and Research, Study Finds

Urgent action is needed to address gender barriers to careers in medical research and teaching, new findings show today

Key findings from the year-long Women in Academic Medicine study* are published today at a BMA conference. A preliminary report states that:

Women doctors are strikingly under-represented in the university sector, particularly at senior levels. Only two out of all 33 heads of UK medical schools are women, Only one in ten (11%) clinical professors is a woman, One in five medical schools has no female professor, Academic medicine is failing to attract and retain women doctors.

The researchers surveyed 1,162 doctors working in the NHS and higher education institutions across the UK. The results show that in medical schools and other universities:

Men are much more likely than women to be editors of medical journals (14% compared to 6%), Men are more likely than women to receive encouragement from senior colleagues to apply for promotion (43% to 38%), Men are more likely than women to know about the processes for promotion (77% to 61%), Men are more likely than women to be on grant-giving panels (30% to 20%).

The researchers conclude that the same problems face men and women, but not equally. The preliminary report comes shortly after the introduction of new gender equality legislation, and its recommendations include:

The promotion of positive action, such as more female role models, The active discouragement of the long hours culture, Appointments committees to reflect the diversity of staff required, Gender monitoring of appointments, Journals and bodies awarding grants to take steps to minimise gender bias, Flexible career structures

Dr Anita Holdcroft, co-chair of the BMA Medical Academic Staff Committee, says:

Six in ten doctors who graduated from medical school last year were female, but the same is emphatically not true of the prof essors who taught them. Women contribute a huge amount to teaching and research in the NHS and medical schools, but career barriers are preventing them from reaching their full potential. There is far more that could be done to create a level playing field in education and research.


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