OFFWomen in medicine worldwide are currently appointed at the senior most positions.  Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told BMJ careers, “Women now hold senior posts throughout the medical profession, and compared to industry—where only 3% of women currently head up FTSE companies—medicine is streets ahead.”


But even though a greater number of women enroll in medical schools as compared to men, the equality in the profession is not uniform. In surgical departments, for example, there are more men than women, who hold senior positions. Figures state that out of the 55% women in medical schools, only 7% are consultant surgeons. Fields like surgery require unpredictable and long working hours, which is not favoured by most women.


As Indra Nooyi puts it, our biological clocks are at constant battles with our career clocks. When most women doctors decide to have children, during their mid and late thirties, their male colleagues are progressing by availing new opportunities. Jane Dacre, director of UCL Medical School and medical director of the MRCP (UK) examination shares, “I was told when I was pregnant, by a clinical supervisor, that I ‘needed to sort my life out’—either go on with my career or bring up a family, but that it would not be possible to do both.”


[Picture Courtesy: Office of women in Medicine and Science]



Beryl De Souza, honorary secretary of the Medical Women’s Federation states that being successful in the profession also involves networking socially. Attending meetings and functions means extra hours of unofficial work, which for a woman with a time consuming career and children, can be very difficult.


Active women in medicine suggest measures to ensure that the field becomes more welcoming for women. De Souza suggests introduction of more diversity programmes and transparency in the numbers of male and female doctors in an organization so the imbalance can be addressed and monitored.  Dacre adds that an equal number of men and women on appointment committees would further help avoid bias at the workplace.