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Half of female doctors delay having children for career reasons – IMO survey

The findings were published today by the Organisation at a seminar exploring issues for women in their careers entitled ‘Definitions of Success’. The seminar, jointly hosted by the IMO and the Bar of Ireland is the first event of its kind to enhance engagement with, and support for women across the professions.

The research shows that female doctors in particular have major concerns about how starting a family will affect their careers. Some 82 per cent of female respondents say they had “been concerned” about the impact that having children may have on their career, in comparison to 39 per cent of their male counterparts. A similar amount (83 per cent) also say they find it difficult to balance their medical workload with their family commitments, as opposed to 73 per cent of male doctors.

Some 85 per cent of female doctors do not believe that existing workplace supports adequately provide for an opportunity to balance medical workloads with family commitments, while 71 per cent of male doctors agree with this.

The research shows some clear gender distinctions when it comes to deciding on what area of medicine to specialise in. Some 88 per cent of female doctors and 79 per cent of male doctors believe that gender is a factor in a doctor’s choice of speciality. While a personal interest in a speciality was the most frequently cited consideration for both male and female NCHDs (59 per cent to 56 per cent respectively), female NCHDs were far more likely to mention work-life balance and job flexibility (33 per cent) as a relevant consideration than their male counterparts (19 per cent).

IMO President Dr Ann Hogan commented: “It is obvious from the research that gender still continues to impact on careers in the medical profession with family considerations often affecting female practitioners to a greater extent than their male colleagues. There is also some catch-up required regarding encouraging female doctors to apply for top consultant posts. The research shows that a higher proportion of male doctors say they have been encouraged at some time during their career to apply for a consultant post when compared to female doctors. Certain specialties have very low numbers of female consultants with only 15 per cent of consultant surgeons being female.”

The research also revealed:-

• 21 per cent of female NCHDs report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace during the last two years, while 12 per cent of male NCHDs report the same.

• 28 per cent of female NCHDs report having experience gender-based bullying in the workplace during the last two years, while 6 per cent of male NCHDs report the same.

Dr Hogan said: “It is obvious that female doctors’ experiences of gender-based bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment differ greatly from male doctors’ experiences. This is an indictment for our profession and must be addressed.”

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