Female doctors “woefully underrepresented” in high-status, high-pay medical specialities

06 January 2016

Researchers from Melbourne University have found that despite half of medical students now being female, they are still underrepresented in formal leadership positions and higher-paid speciality roles. Only 12.5% of Australian hospitals have a female chief executive, while 28% of medical schools have female deans and 33% of state and federal chief medical or chief health officers are female. In an article in The Conversation, Helen Dickinson, Associate Professor of Governance, and Marie Bismark, Senior Research Fellow, note that the proportion of female medical specialists has risen from 16% in 1986 to 34% in 2011. However, these figures hide “distinct gender patterns” with women well-represented in pathology (58%), paediatrics (53%) and obstetrics and gynaecology (49%), but “woefully underrepresented” in other specialities including orthopaedic surgery (6%), vascular surgery (11%) and cardiothoracic surgery (12%). Dickinson and Bismark write that while some believe that these figures will eventually self-correct, they believe that “women are being channelled into particular areas of the profession that are lower status and and attract lower pay, while the more high-profile roles remain in the hands of men”. Their research indicates that women are “not being taken seriously as leaders or surgeons” and that where work environments are “highly gendered” and “valorise masculine values”, this can be alienating for some women or lead to a lack of self-confidence. .