Career progression and destinations, comparing men and women in the NHS: postal questionnaire surveysBMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1735 (Published 03 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1735
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The majority of graduates leaving medical school are female, meaning that within the next 10 years, the majority of doctors in the UK will be women. Currently, 44 per cent of doctors are women, yet they are under-represented in leadership positions, managerial and academic, as well as in clinical specialties such as surgery. Having a number of women at the top of organisations has been shown to improve organisational performance.
The reasons for an under-representation of women in leadership positions in the NHS are complex. The culture of an organisation and current gender balance of leadership networks can act as barriers for women, preventing them from achieving their full potential. Women’s perceptions of their own abilities and expectations combined with the way in which their career is structured can also act as barriers.
Organisations can improve women’s ability to achieve their full potential by taking measures to nurture female talent. Mentoring, career planning, and talent spotting undoubtedly help and should be part of an overall leadership strategy in NHS organisations. Express commitment to such a strategy from both male and female leaders sets the tone for the whole organisation.
Now is the time for concerted action by organisations to increase the representation of women in senior positions by recognising barriers and developing proposals for tackling them. There must be committed senior leadership, giving clear messages of support and ensuring there are measurable systems and active mentoring programmes in place to support women’s careers.
We are collaborating on the Advancing Women Medicine Summit taking place on Tuesday 16 December, as organisations and as individuals, because we are passionate about working in healthcare and are committed to taking action to address this wasted potential. More women doctors in medical leadership in the future will be a marker of the success of this initiative.
Vijaya Nath, Assistant Director of Leadership Develop at The King’s Fund
Miss Clare Marx, President, Royal College of Surgeons
Mr Peter Lees, Chief Executive and Medical Director, Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, Chair of Equality and Inclusion Committee British Medical Association
Dr Sally Davies, President, Medical Women’s Federation
1 General Medical Council; State of medical education and practice in the UK: http://www.gmc-uk.org/SOMEP_ES_web.pdf_53684201.pdf
2 General Medical Council registration statistics 2014: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/register/search_stats.asp
3 For example there are only 23 per cent of female medical directors: HCHS staff, NHS Employers estimates, September 2013
Competing interests: No competing interests