Views And Reviews

Women consultants lag behind in merit awards

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6936.1106 (Published 23 April 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1106
  1. L Beecham

    The Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards is concerned about the lower percentage of awards given to women consultants compared with their male colleagues. About 20% of women consultants hold awards compared with about 37% of male consultants. In 1993 the women received only 12.7% of the available awards, although they formed 17% of the consultant body.

    About one third of all consultants hold awards, of which there were 7103 at the end of 1993, costing pounds sterling 104m.

    In the committee's first annual report its chairman, Professor Sir Gordon Robson, says that the imbalance is partly because most female consultants enter five specialties-psychiatry, anaesthetics, paediatrics, radiology, and public health medicine. Last year new consultant entrants to these specialties comprised 64% of women and only 36% of men. The younger age pattern of women consultants is another factor.

    In addition, there are wide regional variations. The South Western region with 39 awards available selected only one woman and in Wessex, where 16% of consultants are women, they received only two recommendations for C awards. By contrast, the Thames regions all recommended that 20% or more of their awards should go to women.

    Sir Gordon casts doubt on the age limit for merit awards, which was intended to prevent awards being granted close to retirement so as to boost pensions. He says that the number of awards granted to consultants aged between 60 and 65 does not support the contention that they are retirement presents. He believes that the practical effects of the age limits are …

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