Female doctors set to outnumber male colleagues by 2017

Experts claim gender shift could lead to safer practice, but gap in wages remains

Female doctors who have laid siege to the male bastion of the medical profession are poised to overtake their male counterparts in what a medical journal describes as a "giant leap for womankind". Women have outnumbered men in medical schools for a decade and are set to become a majority of the medical workforce by 2017. They already dominate in people-friendly areas such as general practice, paediatrics and palliative care, while still struggling in the chauvinistic disciplines of cardiology and surgery.

But the progressive feminisation of medicine carries dangers, experts warn. There is a still a gender pay gap and a reluctance by women to put in the time and effort needed to attain the most senior posts and maintain medicine's influence in the corridors of power

Maham Khan, from Imperial College, London, writing in the student edition of British Medical Journal, says more women doctors could lead to safer practice. Women are less likely to be hauled before the General Medical Council on disciplinary charges or investigated for failures in performance. Over eight years 490 male doctors were banned from seeing patients following performance reviews by the National Clinical Assessment Service, compared with 79 women.

Problems remain, however. Women are under-represented at the top of the profession, according to Professor Jane Dacre, medical school director of University College London, because they are "not investing in the time and effort it takes to get the top jobs".

Parveen Kumar, president of the Royal Society of Medicine, told the BMJ: "Women don't like to be seen as putting themselves forward."

In 2004, Dame Carol Black, then president of the Royal College of Physicians, triggered a debate about the influence of women in an interview with The Independent in which she warned that the growing numbers could reduce the influence of the medical profession at the highest level. This was not about women's capacity to perform, but about their willingness to devote the time and effort, beyond their medical responsibilities, to furthering the interests of the profession.

Men were happy to give up their evenings, sit on committees and eat dinners for a chance to walk the corridors of power. It was not clear, Lady Black suggested, whether women would have the same appetite for networking.

A report by the Royal College of Physicians warned in 2009 that the gender balance of the profession was changing so fast it threatened the care of patients. Women were more likely to work part time and to break their careers to have families, and competition for less female-friendly disciplines such as surgery would be reduced.

Despite the challenges, medicine is ahead of other professions in terms of gender equality, Maham Khan writes. Women will take 55 years to reach equality with men amongst senior judges and 73 years amongst directors of FTSE 100 companies.

"In terms of numbers, female doctors have made giant leaps," she says.

Study's call to bridge gender health divide

Men fare better than women in almost all areas of life – except when it comes to their health. They are twice as likely as women to die before 65.

Now a doctors' study is calling for policies to tackle problems caused by men's macho attitude to health – rejecting advice and not seeing GPs soon enough.

Alan White, professor of men's health at Leeds Metropolitan University – who led the study published in the British Medical Journal – said intervention should start in schools to give boys "skills to make healthier decisions throughout their lives".

Bosses should collaborate with unions to promote men's health in the workplace, while pubs, clubs and sports centres should also be targeted, the study urges.

Jeremy Laurance

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Accountant

    £25000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?