Northern Ireland

Last updated:

Call for women to influence medical workforce

Anne Carson
CARSON: Women need to put themselves into roles where they could positively influence the workforce

Female doctors in Northern Ireland need to make their voices heard if they are to overcome long-standing barriers to career progression, a special BMA event has heard.

Women in medicine must not remain silent if they want to improve the opportunities for themselves and future generations of female doctors in taking on leadership roles and helping to shape the profession.

This was the message of BMA Northern Ireland’s inaugural women’s networking event, which was aimed at bringing together female consultants from across the country.

The event, which took place on 23 November, heard how challenging negative views and traditional models of practice were essential to improving opportunities for women.

Speaking at the event, BMA Northern Ireland consultants committee chair Anne Carson said that women needed to put themselves into roles where they could positively influence the workforce.

She said: ‘Very soon women will outnumber men in the profession and this is to be celebrated, but the job model designed in 1948 is not fit for purpose and we must put ourselves in a position to influence how the system is designed to take account of the changing workforce.

‘We still have a long way to go, and BMA Northern Ireland is committed to addressing the barriers that we face professionally. Only 36 per cent of consultants in Northern Ireland are female. The gender pay gap throughout in medicine is around 30 per cent; and there are few women in leadership positions.’

Dr Carson said that career progression among female doctors was often still being stunted or negatively impacted by events such as time taken out to have children or other familial responsibilities.

She added that it was up to women themselves to challenge stereotypes and outdated working practices, and that to stay silent would be doing a disservice to the pioneering female physicians of the past.

She said: ‘The many women who went before us – Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Eleanora Fleury and Emily Dickson – we are here today as they broke through and made it possible for us to practise medicine.

‘You cannot leave this to others and assume that someone else will do it – you have to step up. We as women, as leaders, need to shape and influence the system we work in and are passionate about.’

Read more from Grainne Brinkley and follow on Twitter.