Intended for healthcare professionals


Medicine’s gender pay gap: five minutes with . . . Jane Dacre

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 30 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4559
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

The former president of the Royal College of Physicians is leading a review into the gender pay gap in medicine

“The gap was highlighted during the junior doctors’ contract dispute in 2016 by the publication of the equality impact assessment.1 Subsequently, the Department of Health committed to a review and I was asked to lead it by Jeremy Hunt.

“One of the first things we did was appoint the research team from Surrey University, led by Carol Woodhams. Carol has an excellent reputation in researching gender pay gaps and experience of working with NHS trusts. I think it’s important that our data is gathered properly and that this is a constituted piece of academic research that we can base recommendations on.

“The first part of the project was a review of the current UK literature and the next part was qualitative interviews with 30 people. We are now focusing on a survey which will go out to a random selection of around 40 000 male and female doctors on the General Medical Council register. Doctors are currently being asked by the GMC if they want to opt out of it.

“It’s important for the review that we get as large a sample as possible, so that the data are robust. This should be the biggest study of its kind in this country and it’s the first one in the public sector. The higher the quality of this research, the more powerful the outcomes are likely to be.

“At the moment we’re crafting a survey that looks at doctors’ demographics, working practices, seniority, specialty, and whether they work full or part time.

“We’re also looking at government data sets and using mathematical modelling to evaluate the size of the overall gender pay gap and break it down into individual components. While a large part of the gap is most likely down to things like women having children and working part time, what Carol has found in her previous work is that around 7% of the gender pay gap is unexplainable. That’s the bit we want to drill down into.

“There are a lot of hypotheses about why this gap exists. Some of them relate to women not putting themselves forward, not asking for pay rises, or choosing specialties that are less well remunerated. The other thing that feeds into it is clinical excellence awards—data show that women are as successful as men but they don’t apply as often.2

“Unfortunately this review isn’t about giving women doctors a pay rise, it’s about finding the root cause of a problem and making recommendations to narrow the gap over time. Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to eliminate the gender pay gap, I think we’ll be doing well if we reduce it.”