The NHS and medical schools must tackle a 'macho' culture which is preventing female medical academics from reaching senior positions, a BMA-led report says today.
The Women in Academic Medicine report points out that while six in ten medical students are female, women are under-represented at a senior level in medical academia. One in five medical schools has no female professor, and only two of the 33 heads of UK medical schools are women.
It cites new findings from a survey of 1162 medical academics, showing that two in five (41%) perceive women as disadvantaged in terms of career progression, and one in five (21%) perceives women as disadvantaged in terms of salary.
A common theme in focus groups organised by the researchers was the impact of the competitive and long hours culture in medical schools. Doctors spoke of "a macho, aggressive cut throat attitude" and said: "A fundamental issue is the long working hours. Success in academia is currently measured in terms of the amount of grants you get and the number of publications you have - a competition element."
Dr Anita Holdcroft, co-chair of the BMA's Medical Academic Staff Committee, says:
"At my level there is a ratio of one woman to 20 men. While female doctors often achieve consultant status, it is hard for them to progress beyond that - particularly in academic medicine.
"There is an urgent need to tackle the complex factors that are impeding women's medical careers. We believe doing so will be to the ultimate benefit of academic excellence and the UK economy. If our medical schools are to achieve excellence, it is essential that the skills of women are valued."
The report calls on senior leaders in the NHS and higher education institutions to challenge "policies, practices, and subtexts" that impede women's career progression. For example, it says they should ensure that departmental business is not conducted in settings or at times when women are generally not present.
It calls for government and stakeholders to:
• Foster a positive attitude to career diversity, for example to those working reduced hours
• Integrate and sustain monitoring of gender equality for medical academics
• Change culture in universities to open opportunities for women doctors
• Target outcomes in a responsible timeframe.