Irish Medical Organisation

Female doctors and barristers discuss ‘Definitions of Success’

First conference co-hosted by The Bar of Ireland and the Irish Medical Organisation

Recent surveys show similar challenges experienced by women cross the professions

June 1, 2017: The Bar of Ireland and the Irish Medical Organisation are working together today to host a conference for their female barristers and doctors exploring the concept ‘Definitions of Success’ and examining how success has traditionally been viewed and what it will mean in the future. This is an important event for both Organisations given the issues identified for female doctors and barristers.

Both the IMO and the Bar of Ireland undertook surveys in the last 12 months to ascertain the challenges facing their respective female barrister and doctor members. Similar themes arising from both surveys included gender-based discrimination, ‘pigeonholing’ in terms of areas of legal practice/ medical speciality, challenges of work-life balance, and the low level of advancement to positions of seniority such as ‘taking silk’ for barristers (only 16% of 329 senior counsel are women) and becoming a medical consultant for a doctor (only 29% of hospital consultants are female, and 15% of consultant surgeons are female, for example). 

Dr Ann Hogan, President of the Irish Medical Organisation said; “Like our colleagues in The Bar of Ireland, we have recently engaged our members in a survey to seek a greater understanding of the role that gender plays in the medical profession in this country, particularly regarding specialty choices, experiences of bullying, discrimination, or harassment, balancing family commitments and planning with medical practice and career opportunities. The results clearly demonstrated that more needs to be done to support women in the profession.”

Gráinne Larkin, BL, Chair of The Bar of Ireland’s Women’s Working Group, said; “Female barristers and doctors share many of the same professional challenges so we’re delighted to be teaming up with the IMO on this Conference today to explore the concept of “definition of success”. Whether it’s balancing family responsibilities or overcoming gender-based stereotypes, we can achieve more by working together and pooling our collective experiences.”

Key note speaker at the Conference is Miriam O’Callaghan and RTE legal correspondent Orla O’Donnell will chair a panel discussion with contributions from Marguerite Bolger, a Senior Counsel specialising in employment law; Mary Rose Gearty, Senior Counsel; Oonah McCrann, Senior Counsel; Dr Ann Hogan, IMO President and Dr Ailin Rogers Surgical Specialist Registrar & Lead NCHD, Beaumont Hospital. Dr Deborah McNamara, Consultant Surgeon, Beaumont Hospital will make a presentation on training the next generation of surgeons.

Commenting ahead of the Conference Marguerite Bolger SC said; “Discrimination against women is recognised across many professions, not least in law and medicine. As barristers, we particularly struggle with the self-employed nature of our work when challenging institutionalised discrimination. I have found, anecdotally, that women receive significant work satisfaction from working for a worthy or notable outcome, being seen as a recognised expert and a go to person.  These are stronger motivations that financial reward. As part of the evolution to achieving an even playing field, this Conference will be a very useful exercise to help us first determine first what success looks like to female barrister and doctors”

Dr Ann Hogan said “Despite recent progress, research shows that there is much work still to be done. Discrimination and sexual harassment influences specialty choice; a perception that certain specialties are less compatible with family commitments acts as a barrier to women, including a lack of flexible or part-time training or working arrangements. There are perceptions that women’s skill set or abilities may not be compatible or suited to certain specialties. Today’s seminar will offer us an opportunity to discuss, to learn and to raise the profile of crucial matters within our respective professions and to engage with the HSE and Training Bodies on how these issues can be progressed. Women represent a huge proportion of the medical workforce and we cannot ignore these issues”


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