|Name: Sally Davies
Role: President of the Medical Women’s Federation
Why is health care a women’s issue?
Women are vital to health care as they raise the future generations. Good care of women in pregnancy, delivery, early years and provision of immunisation and education are factors that not only improve the health of women but of the whole population. The best thing to improve the survival and health of children are the education of women and provision of contraception.
What are some of the challenges facing women in medicine and how is your organisation working to address these?
There are insufficient women in medical leadership and academic positions in the UK and worldwide. The tendency is to consider that women are reluctant to put themselves forward and lack confidence in going for the senior posts. However as well as encouragement there needs to be a change in the culture to empower women in medicine by role models and mentoring.
It is important that changes to working practice consider the effect on women and others to ensure that they are not disadvantaged. Our organisation strives to ensure that the issues for women doctors are always in the forefront of discussion.
How can female doctors and patients work together to ensure access to safe and essential health care services including surgery and anaesthesia?
Women doctors work well with patients to discover their needs and better ways of delivering service and working together. There are excellent charities and other bodies undertaking work to improve awareness and the access to health and information for women about their bodies and how to look after themselves and their children. Lifebox is a prime example of a charity that is doing excellent work in supporting safe anaesthesia internationally.
How have women’s roles in medicine changed over the years?
It is expected that women doctors will achieve parity in numbers with men in 2017. That year will also be the Centenary of the Medical Women’s Federation, being celebrated in London in May 2017 with the MWIA.
Women doctors are spreading across the breadth of specialties though progress is slower in some e.g. surgical specialties. Some specialties have a predominance of women e.g. obstetrics and gynaecology and psychiatry. However the more senior roles are still predominantly male with a gender pay gap for women doctors over the age of 40 years.
More recently women doctors have come in for a lot of adverse publicity for desiring to work flexibly or having time off to have children or care for dependants. Women doctors are conscientious and work extremely hard for their patients and must form part of the solution not the problem.
This year’s theme for IWD is ‘pledge for parity,’ what does this mean for female doctors?
Women doctors are entitled to the same career opportunities as their male colleagues. However the way the NHS works does not always encourage the flexibility that would enable equity of opportunity. The ‘pledge for parity’ needs to involve all men and women in creating a better culture within our health service for the benefit of all.