New initiative to combat underrepresentation of senior female medics

Dame  Pam Shaw

Dame Pam Shaw

o Six medical schools have no women professors
o Half medical students are now women but lag behind in senior positions
o Only 28 per cent of consultants are women

A team of dedicated doctors and health care professionals have joined forces in order to combat the significant underrepresentation of women in medicine.

Today more than half of all new medical students are female and 40 per cent of all doctors are women. However despite this, fewer than 28 per cent of consultants are women.

To try and address this imbalance, a new network - Sheffield Women in Medicine (SWiM) has been launched by a group of junior and senior doctors at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and academics from the University of Sheffield, designed to inspire and support women at all stages of their careers.

Dr Alenka Brooks, a specialist registrar in gastroenterology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said there is a national need to understand the organisational and economic implications of increasing numbers of women in the profession.

"We know that there are very few women doctors on NHS boards as medical directors. In 2007 only 12 per cent of all clinical professors on university contracts were women and in 2006, six medical schools in the country had no female professors and just two out of 34 medical schools had female Deans," said Dr Brooks.

"There remains a significant underrepresentation of women in senior leadership roles, academic positions, and some medical and surgical specialties within the NHS and university systems. Understanding the complex issues and challenges women face, including their preferences for modes of work, has significant implications for the future organisation and delivery of patient centred care.

Dr Brooks added: "We hope that by creating an active community in Sheffield and beyond, we will establish a supportive network which strengthens through increasing organisational support and by nurturing women in medicine. In the long term, we hope this will result in accessing significant untapped talent.

"Ensuring career progression for women in medicine and a working life which is compatible with the complexities women may face due to caring roles at certain times of their lives will not be achieved by simply increasing the numbers of women in medicine. We must ensure that the NHS maximises the most gifted, whatever their background, by designing jobs in ways that will attract the very best people into demanding leadership roles so that we can provide the best possible healthcare for patients and their families."

Miriam González Durántez, will be speaking at the network’s inaugural event "Inspiring the Future" on Thursday 6 February, 2014. Miriam is a partner at an international law firm, who recently launched the national Inspiring Women campaign which aims to increase the numbers of women in leading positions in society.

"Almost half of all medicine university students and GPs are women - but women are lagging behind when it comes to surgeon, specialized doctors and senior academia and management position," said Miriam.

"There is still a lot of ground for women to cover. Young women in medicine who wish to aim high should be encouraged to do so. The Inspiring Women campaign that we launched in October 2013 with the help of Inspiring the Future aims exactly at that: help girls to feel free to choose whatever they want to do in life beyond any social pressures or stereotypes."

Inspiring the Future is open to anyone in the medical and health care profession and will take place between 5.45pm-8.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1 at the University of Sheffield Medical School at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Joining Miriam as a speaker will be Professor Jane Dacre who is the Director of University College London Medical School. In 2012 she was the Women in the City Woman of Achievement in Medicine Healthcare, and on the inaugural Health Service Journal’s list of inspirational women in 2013. Suzie Bailey, Service Improvement Director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, who is championing the cause for high quality patient care, will also be leading a panel discussion.

Over 20 students also from the University’s Sheffield Outreach and Access to Medicine (SOAMS) programme will be attending the event.

SOAMS is a long-running scheme for youngsters in Years 9-13, designed to increase aspirations, give encouragement, and motivate young people to make a career in medicine or health care.

Silverdale School pupil Mariam El-Hakam, 18, said: "I think it is important that more women start getting some of the best jobs in medicine. I have noticed myself that most consultants are male but the majority of nurses and midwives are predominantly female.

"I think the SWiM network is so important because it gives me and many other female medical applicants an opportunity to see what we can aspire to. I am fortunate enough to know many successful women including medical students and doctors through the SOAMS who have many inspirational women role models, including my mum."

One of the University’s most inspirational women is Professor Pam Shaw, Professor of Neurology, who was one of only 16 figures across the country to be given a Damehood this year in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to neurosciences including revolutionary research in pioneering treatments for Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Dame Pam said: "The launch of the Sheffield Women in Medicine network is a very positive initiative. Everyone needs a little encouragement to believe in themselves and their talents and abilities at formative stages of a career in medicine.

"There are fewer women in the higher echelons of the profession to act as role models. I am sure that SWIM will provide a great network of support, advice and inspiration to women and I hope also to men, at all stages of their medical career."

She is one of a number of leading female figures from the University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust to receive gongs in the honours list including: Professor Kate Gerrish, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, who was given a CBE in recognition of her unique contribution to nursing, Professor Moira Whyte, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, who was given an OBE for services to Respiratory Medicine, and Professor Wendy Tindale, Clinical Director of NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Cooperative, who received her award for services to healthcare.


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