BMA report shows doctors suffer ‘appalling’ sexism

Nine-in-ten women doctors in the UK say they have experienced sexism at work, with 42% feeling they could not report it.

Women taking part in a BMA survey of both sexes said they suffer patronising comments, are being judged on their appearance, can be overlooked in their career progression or are ignored by patients and other doctors in favour of male colleagues.

The BMA asked doctors if they had experienced sexist behaviour in the past year. 2,458 responded with 84% of all respondents saying they felt there was an issue of sexism in the medical profession.

Survey findings published in a report called Sexism in Medicine reveal:

  • 42% of all respondents who witnessed or experienced an issue relating to sexism felt they couldn’t report it;
  • 28% of men respondents said that they have/had more opportunities during training because of their gender, compared to 1% of women respondents;
  • 61% of women respondents felt they were discouraged to work in a particular specialty because of their gender with 39% going on to decide not to work in that specialty;
  • 70% of women respondents felt their clinical ability had been doubted or undervalued because of their gender, compared to 4% of men respondents;
  • 54% of all respondents thought sexism acts as a barrier to career progression;
  • 31% of women and 23% of men respondents experienced unwanted physical conduct in their workplace;
  • 56% of women and 28% of men respondents received unwanted verbal conduct related to their gender.

Dr Latifah Patel

Dr Latifa Patel, acting chairman of the BMA’s policy-making representative body, called it ‘appalling’ to be seeing these statistics, hearing these stories and talking about these inequalities in 2021. 

She said: ‘The report makes for shocking reading and there is no place for sexism in society. 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.’

A better place to work

Dr Patel appealed to the BMA’s ‘partners in health’ to join in tackling gender discrimination issues ‘and make medicine a better place to work’.

A joint statement from BMA consultants committee chairman Dr Vishal Sharma and the junior doctors’ committee chair Dr Sarah Hallett said: ‘The results of this survey are deeply concerning, and show how far we – as a society – have yet to go to stamp out sexism in the workplace once and for all.

‘The BMA has repeatedly highlighted the importance of inclusive and supportive workplaces, to retain doctors and create environments that all groups feel welcome in. No one should ever be subjected to sexism in the workplace, and we all have a vital role to play in ensuring that this unacceptable behaviour is eradicated.

‘We need to create better, more inclusive working cultures and ensure a future where there is no sexism in medicine and we will work closely with each other’s committees to achieve this.

‘Until then, we encourage BMA members who have been victims of sexist behaviours and unwanted verbal or physical contact to contact us for advice and support. We also offer a free and confidential BMA Wellbeing service, open to all doctors and medical students regardless of BMA membership.’