Sexism 'Widespread' in Medicine: BMA Survey

Peter Russell

August 26, 2021

More than 9 out of 10 women doctors in the UK said they have experienced sexism at work.

A report by the British Medical Association (BMA) also found that more than 4 out of 10 said they felt unable to report the incident.

A female junior doctor, whose concerns were the catalyst for the report, explained how she felt "humiliated" after a consultant ignored her input in favour of a male colleague.

'Concerning' Findings

The report, Sexism in Medicine,  found "a concerning level of sexism in the medical profession, stemming from patients, fellow doctors, and other NHS staff".

The BMA asked doctors whether they had experienced sexist behaviour in the previous 12 months.

There were 2458 responses to the March poll, of whom 82% were female and 16% male.

Out of all the respondents, 84% said there was an issue with sexism in the medical profession.

Among women doctors, 91% said they had experienced sexism at work within the past 2 years.

Among the other main findings were that:

  • 42% of all respondents who witnessed or experienced an issue relating to sexism in the past 2 years chose not to raise it with anyone

  • 70% of women respondents felt that their clinical ability had been doubted or undervalued because of their gender, in comparison with 12% of men

  • 31% of women experienced unwanted physical conduct in the workplace, as did 23% of men

  • 56% of women had received unwanted verbal conduct relating to their gender, as did 28% of men

  • 28% of men said they have/had more opportunities during training because of their gender, in comparison with 1% of women respondents

  • 74% thought sexism acted as a barrier to career progression

  • 61% of women felt they were discouraged to work in a particular specialty because of their gender, with 39% going on to not work in that specialty

A significant number of women doctors also felt discriminated against over issues of pregnancy and parental leave.


Source: BMA

'I Felt Belittled'

The report was inspired by Dr Chelcie Jewitt who started a campaign against gender discrimination after feeling ignored on shift because of her sex. "I felt humiliated and belittled by the way I was spoken to, and even though I knew I was tired after a gruelling set of night shifts, I couldn’t shake the feeling of upset and anger," she said.

Dr Latifa Patel, acting chair of the BMA's representative body, described the findings as "appalling".

"If we want to eradicate it, we all have a part to play. It’s going to take a concerted effort, and it won’t be quick to fix, but sexism must stop."

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, and Dr Sarah Hallett, BMA junior doctors committee chair, added in a statement: "We need to create better, more inclusive working cultures, and ensure a future where there is no sexism in medicine."

The NHS Confederation said it was clear there was more to do to ensure women were treated fairly in the health service.

'More Work to Do'

Danny Mortimer, the Confederation's deputy chief executive, and chief executive of NHS Employers, said they were "working hard to make sure their staff do not experience sexism, or indeed, any form of discrimination".

He agreed, from the Confederation's own research, that many women working in the NHS felt unable to share personal concerns with managers out of fear of discrimination and bullying.

One positive signal was the recent appointment of Amanda Pritchard as NHS chief executive, he said.


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