A study has reported that female doctors fear discrimination for choosing to have children. Published in BMJ Open, the study reported that some female doctors felt having children would be a ‘step back’ from their careers.
Women also reported negative attitudes from senior male colleagues when deciding to have children, or working part-time.
One doctor said: “I had a very negative reaction from my consultant at the time when I told them I was pregnant. He chastised me for it.”
Another woman said she was reprimanded for having children. She stated: “The consultant was very hostile towards me, and asked: How come I’ve got to that stage in my training and have children already? Was it appropriate to have children when I was at that level?”
Instances of overt sexism were also revealed. One doctor reported being told: “you’re either a woman or a neurosurgeon, you can’t be both.” Another surgical trainee overheard a conversation between consultants where one admitted, “I would never hire a female registrar if I could help it.”
Earlier this year, LSE academic Dr Roger Alford caused backlash after calling for a limit of female medical students in order to: “allow more young men who will give a full career of medical service and provide society with much better value for the money spent on medical training.”
Over half of current medical students in the UK are female.
Trainees reported that the lack of work-life balance experienced by junior doctors has a greater impact on women than their male counterparts.
An educational trainer for hospital medicine said work-life balance improved considerably once training had ended. However, on average it takes a full-time employee 7-9 years after completing medical school to achieve consultancy level.
A lack of part-time training roles within hospitals forced some trainees to alter their career paths. Many chose general practice because it was “the only speciality where they could see having family and being a doctor as feasible.”
The study consisted of several focus groups made up of junior doctors and their educational leads. 96 trainees and 41 educational trainers took part. The authors called for further research to evaluate the full extent of impact on junior doctors.
By: Isabella Laws
Sub-editor: Charlotte Gannon