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
ebookNow available in paperback
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?