Gender Equality in Medicine - IMO Speech at ICTU Women's Conference
We know that for those pursuing a career in medicine, a number of significant gender inequalities exist for example:
- Over the last 5 years the gender breakdown in post graduate medical training has broadly been 56% female and 44% male, yet when we look at the gender breakdown in HSE consultant posts- 40% are female compared to 60%.
- Females tend to be over-represented in specialties such as Public health, General Practice, Psychiatry and under-represented in surgical specialties
- CSO figures show that the median earnings of female doctors is 31.5% less than their male counterparts
Multiple factors contribute to gender inequalities in the wider workforce including difficulties balancing work and family commitments which in turn impact on career choice and career progression. Medicine is no different.
Last year 1,600 doctors (male and female) working in Ireland responded to the IMO’s survey on gender equality. The results of the survey show alarming gender inequalities for medical doctors across work and family life:
- Of those doctors with children or dependent relatives who responded to the survey, the vast majority of females (92%) had taken leave of some kind to care for their children or dependent relatives compared with just 29.4% of males
- Female doctors are five times more likely to reduce their hours to part-time and four times more likely to take unpaid leave in order to care for children when compared with male doctors;
- 51.2% of female doctors and 39.1% of male doctors with children state that they often experience difficulty in sourcing childcare options that fit their working hours;
When asked about the factors that influenced their specialty choice, female doctors were strongly influenced by the availability of more family friendly hours and working conditions, and also gave consideration as to whether their specialty choice fit better with their family plans.
- Of our current Non Consultant Hospital Doctors in training and who have children, 76.4% of females and 36.7% of males have considered changing their career speciality as their current working conditions did not seem conducive to caring for a child.
These statistics run parallel to the findings that
- 45.8% of female doctors have experienced relegation to fewer or more mundane tasks compared to colleagues of another gender,
- 26.7% of female doctors have been told directly or indirectly that your gender need not apply for a post/career choice.
- This compares with just over 10% of male doctors who have had similar experiences
- And just 27% of female consultants are of the view that women are encouraged to apply for clinical lead or clinical director posts; this compares to over 60% of male consultants who think that their female colleagues are so encouraged..
Gender equality is an important value and ideal to uphold from a human rights perspective, and it also brings many tangible social and economic benefits to society, including in the practice of medicine. There is growing evidence, primarily from business and management sectors, that gender-diverse workplaces improve productivity, innovation, decision making, and employee retention and satisfaction. Similarly, there is an increasing understanding in medicine that a gender diverse medical workforce can translate into greater equity of access to care for patients and improved patient outcomes.
Given what we do know of the inequalities in relation to gender that exist in Irish medicine, it is of paramount importance that we move swiftly towards policies that promote gender equality and work-life balance within the Irish field of medicine..
To achieve these ends, measures, both immediate and sustained, are needed across a myriad of interlinked areas of gender equality, including more family-friendly training and work options, more flexible working options, adequate backfilling of roles, addressing unconscious bias and promoting female leadership in medicine.
In this regard, it is important to see this motion as an important step and strive towards gender equality in medicine and beyond and we call on this conference to support this motion.
Significant gender inequalities exist within medicine in particular, the inability to plan for and balance work and family commitments, impacts on career choices and family planning choices, career progression and consequent negative impact on female earnings in medicine.. Given the increasing numbers of women entering and practising medicine and the positive benefits this brings to healthcare, the meeting calls on the Department of Health and the HSE to:
- Ensure any obstacles that deter women reaching their full career goals are removed.
- Provide that all contractual terms and conditions should take account of part time working and job sharing in addition to enhanced family friendly policies
- Provision of onsite childcare facilities in line with the working hours expected of doctors