Top tips for women in academic medicine

A one-day conference has explored how to overcome the challenges faced by women in academic medicine

October 17, 2014

“Celebrating and promoting women in academic medicine” was organised by the British Medical Association and held at BMA House on 17 October.

After a “speed mentoring” opening session, Parveen Kumar, professor of medicine and education at Queen Mary University of London, described “what helped me find my way to success”.

Although she regretted that she had “lost my younger years, working even harder to prove I was as good as any man”, she also offered a number of pointers: “Don’t ask anyone to do what you wouldn’t do”; “Avoid confrontation unless absolutely necessary”; and “Choose your path… look 10 years ahead”.

Delegates raised questions from the floor about “the very gendered definitions of success”; the part-time women doctors who in effect pay to go to work, since childcare costs absorb their whole salary; and the case for making payment to nannies tax-deductible professional expenses.

Along with a presentation on the value of the Athena SWAN Charter in promoting the cause of women within academic medicine, smaller discussion groups offered opportunities for sharing experiences and suggestions. A group of mainly hospital trainees considered the particular issues relating to “academic women and hospital medicine”.

“Academic medicine will always have two masters,” a moderator explained, “neither of which will cut you any slack.” But since the key metrics were papers and grants, researchers enjoyed a certain “autonomy over diaries” denied to full-time clinicians, and this could be “liberating when it comes to juggling”. A consultant argued that it was essential to fight for blocks of “protected time” where they could focus on their science, which was often easier if they could secure independent sources of funding.

Meanwhile, those starting careers were advised to be “pleasantly inflexible” in response to unreasonable demands and to ensure that academic representatives on hospital trusts’ local negotiating committees took account of their concerns. They should also carve out for themselves a small, self-contained area of real clinical expertise – the only people who managed to oversee large research projects while also doing general medicine were men with stay-at-home wives, the event heard.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham