More than 90% of female doctors have faced sexism at work, finds BMA | Doctors


Nine in 10 female doctors have experienced sexism at work in the UK, including unwanted physical contact, denial of opportunities and being asked to massage male colleagues in meetings.

The findings have emerged from a survey of medics by the British Medical Association, which said the results were appalling and the incidents made for shocking reading.

The doctors’ union sought members’ views and experiences in response to the Everyday Sexism in the NHS campaign, which is run by Dr Chelcie Jewitt, a trainee hospital doctor. It attracted 2,458 responses, of which 82% were from female doctors and 16% from male medics.

The survey shows that 91% of female doctors have experienced sexism at work. It found that, while just 4% of men felt that their clinical ability had been doubted or undervalued because of their gender, 70% of women who responded said that it had.

Almost one-third (31%) of female doctors had experienced unwanted physical conduct in their workplace, while more than the 23% of male medics had. Similarly, 56% of women had received unwanted verbal comments related to their gender, but only 28% of men had done so.

Two in five (42%) of female and male doctors who had witnessed or experienced sexism felt that they could not report it.

One female junior doctor told the BMA: “I have been asked to massage consultants’ shoulders during surgical multidisciplinary team working.”

Another, who is a GP, said: “I was asked at an interview if I was planning on having children. I’ve had patients refusing to see me as they want to see a proper – ie male – doctor … Advised I was not pretty enough to cause a distraction in meetings so they could treat me like a bloke.”

A male specialist medicine doctor told how, even though he often works with female consultants, “there is a tendency for other specialities to speak and defer to me rather than my consultant colleagues, despite knowing the grade of everyone in the conversation”.

Jewitt began her campaign in 2019 when during a handover a male consultant “completely ignored my contributions in favour of a male doctor”, even though she had provided most of the care for the patients. When her male colleague explained that she had done so, the consultant asked him to pass on his thanks to Jewitt “because I won’t want her getting emotional”.

Official figures show that female doctors in the NHS earn less than their male counterparts.

Danny Mortimer, the deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, said the NHS needed to do more to combat sexism.

“NHS organisations are working hard to make sure their staff do not experience sexism, or indeed, any form of discrimination, and Amanda Pritchard’s recent appointment [as NHS England’s new chief executive] signals a more representative leadership. But as this report makes clear, there is far more work to be done.”


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