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I was delighted earlier this year when Professor Dame Jane Dacre, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, launched the new independent review of the gender pay gap in medicine.
The review has been a long time coming – it was announced by the health secretary back in 2016, during the middle of the junior doctors’ contract dispute. At the BMA we’ve been working hard to make sure the review will lead to meaningful, long-term change.
While there is legislation in place to ensure equal pay between men and women doctors, there is still a sizeable gender pay gap in medicine. There are various issues behind this,
Despite reaching parity of numbers in the profession, women are still underrepresented at the top levels. Women make up just 36 per cent of consultants, and 26 per cent of CCG GP leads. But this is not just about higher salaries, it’s also about women’s visibility as role models for junior colleagues. And also about women having an equal say in clinical decision-making, budgets and commissioning – as healthcare leaders.
Women still take an unequal share of childcare and caring responsibilities. We see this impacting on the type of jobs they are able to take on, with many working part-time to accommodate nursery and school pick-ups and holiday childcare. There is strong evidence that the effect of having children affects women not just when they take time out for maternity leave, but in the 12 years after the birth of their first child, by which point they are earning over 30 per cent less than men.
Sadly, women still experience bias and discrimination in the workplace. Women who train on a less-than-full-time basis describe being subjected to ‘undermining behaviour’ from colleagues and managers and being made to feel ‘inferior’ to male full-time colleagues. Women still don’t put themselves forward for clinical excellence awards as often as men, which may reflect a perception that the awards recognise the kind of work, done outside the day job, which tends to be more of a male domain.
There have been important initiatives to identify the barriers women experience in their careers. The Deech review of women in medicine highlighted a number of critical steps to make it easier for women to progress in their medical careers. However almost 10 years later, the challenges her review identified persist for women today.
That’s why I’m encouraged that the review of the gender pay gap in medicine has been set up. Dame Jane will be chairing the steering group, which will deliver the review’s final recommendations and report. This will be critical in bringing about policy change benefiting doctors practising now as well as future generations.
I am delighted to be representing the BMA on this group - I will be joined by my colleagues Hannah Barham-Brown and Helen Fidler, deputy chairs of our junior doctors and consultants committees. We have also set up an internal BMA group to bring in the voices and experiences of doctors from all branches of practice – all the representatives will be meeting today at the BMA. And in the afternoon we will all be contributing to the first stakeholder group meeting which will be engaging the wider medical establishment in the review.
The early signs look positive. The University of Surrey research team appointed to the review are hugely experienced and plan to interview and survey large numbers of doctors in the course of gathering the quantitative and qualitive evidence which will support the review’s recommendations.
This is a huge opportunity to change medicine for the better. We will be working hard to make sure this review delivers tangible results and helps create a professional culture in which everyone has the opportunity to progress and all doctors are fairly rewarded for their contribution.
For more information and updates on the gender pay gap review please visit our dedicated webpage, where you can also download a background briefing on the review.
Anthea Mowat is chair of the BMA Representative Body
One example of the gender pay gap was the retainer scheme in the 1990's when work as a GP was not superannuable. this predominantly affected female doctors and I have a gap of several years in my pension contributions as a result
I have been a locum consultant for 2.5 years out of 4 years, waiting for my post to become substantive, working at consultant level and I wonder whether there is any data on whether there is a gender difference in regards to locum vs substantive posts. It makes that I’m not eligible to apply for CEAs, putting my pay behind colleagues who have been in a substantive post.
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