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

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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: Business Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...

    Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Bedfordshire - £30,000 + Excellent package

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - Fire Security Systems - OTE £60k

    £27500 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating in the South East pri...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn