Sexism still widespread in UK medicine

WOMEN doctors in the UK still endure widespread sexism in the profession, with 91 per cent experiencing it at work and 42 per cent feeling unable to report it, according to a report published by the BMA.

The Sexism in Medicine report is based on a survey sent to all BMA members, with 2,458 responding, including both women and men. It found that 70 per cent of women respondents felt that their clinical ability had been doubted or undervalued because of their gender, compared to 4 per cent of male respondents.

It also found that 61 per cent of women respondents felt they were discouraged to work in a particular specialty because of their gender, with 39 per cent going on to decide not to work in that speciality – and 54 per cent of all respondents feeling that sexism acts as a barrier to career progression.

The survey found that 31 per cent of women experienced unwanted physical conduct in their workplace, and 56 per cent received unwanted verbal conduct related to their gender.

Male respondents (28 per cent) reported having more opportunities during training because of their gender, compared to 1 per cent of women respondents.

Junior doctor Dr Chelcie Jewitt, whose personal experiences were a catalyst for the report, said: "I felt humiliated and belittled by the way I was spoken to and even though I knew I was tired after a gruelling set of night shifts, I couldn’t shake the feeling of upset and anger. Two weeks after a consultant completely ignored my contributions in favour of a male doctor while I was handing over after a busy shift, I knew I couldn’t just let it lie."

Dr Latifa Patel, who is the acting chair of the BMA’s representative body, said: "It is appalling that we are seeing these statistics, hearing these stories and talking about these inequalities in 2021. The report makes for shocking reading and there is no place for sexism in society. If we want to eradicate it, we all have a part to play. It’s going to take a concerted effort, and it won’t be quick to fix, but sexism must stop."

The BMA has pledged to develop recommendations to tackle gender discrimination and these will be shared with appropriate partners and stakeholders, who will be encouraged to report back on progress made.

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