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Many of you will be aware that a national independent review of the gender pay gap in the medical profession has been launched. What you may not know is that the BMA’s advisory group, set up to bring a cross-BMA perspective to our participation in the gender pay gap review, contains male doctor representatives.
David Strain and I put ourselves forward from our respective committees [medical academic staff committee and consultants committee] to the BMA’s new group which is providing feedback on documents and proposals on the review.
I believe it’s absolutely critical that men have a strong voice in the review. This may seem obvious but to acknowledge this explicitly is still something of a taboo.
Why have I got involved? For three reasons.
The gender pay gap is a huge issue facing the medical profession. The gap manifests at all stages of careers, though it is much more acute by mid-career i.e. amongst SAS doctors and consultants. CEAs (clinical excellence awards) seem to have a part to play.
We know from national data that women are under-represented in CEA applications, although they have an almost identical success rate when they do apply. There are gender variations in local CEA awards being paid, which appears to be an artefact of the previous CEA scheme being tiered and points accrued being built on with subsequent awards.
In my trust, more women than men received awards in the last CEA round - things are changing. This is one of the areas we will be prioritising in the negotiations on the successor awards scheme to redress imbalances in award distribution which have grown over time.
However, CEAs are not the only factor in the gender pay gap. We know that early career choices often prompt a move into particular specialties, which vary in the amount of overtime, out of hours working required and therefore affect pay. Women are still much more likely to opt for specialties where female doctors are already well represented such as paediatrics and public health as opposed to more intensive, unpredictable specialties like emergency medicine, where women only make up 33 per cent.
Medicine is not always open to flexible working. Doctors often struggle to negotiate a reduction in their hours. Many working less than full-time miss out on training opportunities and experience discrimination. The impact of working part-time to care for children, which women do far more than men, can have a long term effect on careers. In my role I was fortunate to have a job plan on appointment that meant I am able to be actively involved in my daughter’s life, undertaking the school run and childcare requirements on specific days, and this does not appear to have negatively impacted my career.
Secondly, closing the gap benefits all doctors, men as well as women. Many more male trainees would undoubtedly like to take more paternity leave and reduce their hours when they have children or to pursue other interests. However, the system makes it hard to do so – the conditions which need to be met for shared parental leave are fairly stringent and many male doctors wanting to go less than full time still unfortunately face barriers. There are huge benefits to getting this right. Tackling the gender pay gap makes for a healthier, happier workforce, better patient care and increased organisational productivity.
The final reason I’m involved with the GPG review is because as men there is a lot we can do to get to champion the review and help increase the impact of its recommendations. So I am urging my colleagues to
At a time when medicine faces a huge recruitment and retention crisis we need to be acknowledging and fairly rewarding the contribution of all our doctors. Making it easier for doctors to work flexibly, increasing support for parents and offering a better work-life balance offer long term remedies. Sorting out the pay gap in medicine is not a win-lose game but a win-win.
Phil de Warren-Penny is a deputy co-chair for negotiations on the BMA consultants committee and member of the BMA’s internal advisory group on the gender pay gap
Find out more about the BMA’s work on the gender pay gap
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