Women medics face hard climb

January 6, 1995

Women aiming for a medical career are still meeting more barriers than their male peers, a nationwide survey has found.

Data compiled in a study of medical students who qualified in 1986 has shown women falling behind men on the career ladder five years after qualification to a greater extent than those gaining professional status in 1981.

A report on the findings calls for the Government, medical schools, the National Health Service and the Royal Colleges, to review education and training for medical students to check imbalances and flaws in the system.

Though women now account for at least half of those entering medical school -- most of whom have outperformed men at A level -- they face discrimination and a career structure judged to be outdated and inflexible.

Research based on interviews with more than 200 doctors found that the typical requirements for rapid promotion -- a "straight" and conventional career path, full rather than part-time work, taking advantage of patronage, and geographical mobility -- were all likely to disadvantage women.

The survey, by the Policy Studies Institute, discovered that many career constraints for both men and women entering medicine which were identified in previous studies of doctors qualifying in 1966, 1976 and 1981, remained as obstacles for 1986 qualifiers.

But women's ambitions are still most likely to be frustrated.

The status of part-time working was one of the biggest problems facing women, who were more likely than men to be working fewer and more flexible hours at some point in their career -- though the survey findings exposed flaws in the assumption that this was largely due to domestic or family commitments.

Another was the system of personal patronage, seen by many in the profession as an important factor in careers advancement.

Doctors and their Careers: A New Generation, available from PSI distributors, PO Box 1496, Poole, BH12 3YD, Pounds 19.95.

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