Striving for inclusivity on the BMA pensions committee

by Emma Coombe and Silvia Ferrera

The BMA is committed to promoting equal rights and opportunities, supporting diversity and creating an open and inclusive environment for its members.

Location: UK
Published: Monday 19 October 2020
people talking

To achieve these goals, it needs to ensure all doctors have a voice on democratic structures and that elected structures reflect the make-up, skills and backgrounds of members and the wider medical workforce. This will allow committees to create policy and effectively advise on the conditions in doctors' and medical students' places of work and study. Ensuring structures are reflective of the membership is important for the following reasons:

Sustainability The medical profession is becoming increasingly diverse. Our membership should reflect the medical workforce and student body to be sustainable, to grow and to allow the voices of all groups to be heard

Policy-making It strengthens our ability to stand up for you, both individually and collectively, on a wide variety of policy and employment issues

External influence It allows us to respond to and influence effectively on key issues affecting your working lives and wider public health matters 

High-performance organisation Organisations that are more inclusive and embrace diversity perform better and achieve more. It is essential in attracting and retaining talented and committed staff and members, who can thrive in a positive working environment

These advantages certainly hold true for the pensions committee. It is vital the committee is representative of the workforce and while historically it has been reasonably diverse in terms of having members from different ethnic backgrounds, in previous years the pensions committee was heavily male dominated. Indeed, during the last session, only one voting member was female. This is not appropriate particularly given that we know there is a significant gender pensions gap which is actually wider than the gender pay gap.

We have taken steps to address this and with some elections outstanding, a minimum of 30% of the elected voting members on the pensions committee for this session are female. While this is a significant improvement, there is still some way to go in this regard.


Below, two of our newly elected members tell their experiences of working with the committee and why they wanted to get involved.

‘As a less than full-time consultant juggling a busy district general hospital job with a young family, it was difficult to become involved with BMA work beyond my local negotiating committee. When I became involved in this work,  I was often the only female doctor in the room. At first  it was tempting to leave but I realised that this was never going to change unless I and other women put themselves forward and became involved. Given that there are now more women than men entering the profession, there was a degree of urgency.

'So when the pensions committee advertised for an observer position last year to help address the gender imbalance within the committee, I didn’t think twice. Eight months down the line, I am delighted to have been elected as a voting member. The pensions committee is extremely welcoming, and I have been bowled over by their enthusiasm and energy. Not only is there a huge amount of work to be done but it will directly impact every single doctor working today. It is crucial for the committee to be sufficiently diverse so that the interests of all doctors are represented. Otherwise there will be groups of doctors who will miss out just because nobody in the committee was aware of their need.’  Silvia Ferrera

‘I thought it was fantastic when the Pensions Committee advertised for an observer from the junior doctors committee last year and I put myself forward because I know the conversation about pensions is one that the BMA needs to start earlier on in member’s careers. Ensuring that junior doctors are properly equipped with knowledge regarding how their pensions are calculated, will not only help them plan their own finances but will ensure that when they become GPs, SAS doctors and Consultants, they are better able to navigate this increasingly complex system.

‘Being a pensions novice initially, I found the committee to be patient and invested in teaching me as an observer about the multitude of issues our members face. I stood for election to the committee so that I can be part of communicating these issues to our members across all branches of practice, and upskilling doctors when it comes to getting the best out of their pensions. It is my generation of doctors who are most affected by the age discrimination with pensions transitions that will be a key issue for the committee this year, so I think it is important we are represented here.’ Emma Coombe