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A “burden” of female doctors?

Will female doctors really become a burden on the NHS, Tory MP Anne McIntosh seems to think so

Female doctors face discrimination
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Jasmine is an employment law solicitor who tweets as @JasmineJpatel
At a time when we should be applauding the increasing number of women entering the medical profession, the Tory MP Anne McIntosh caused a significant stir last week by claiming the large number of female trainee doctors (some 70% of medical students are currently women) will become a burden on the NHS.

Her reasoning being that because the majority of these women “in the normal course of events will marry and have children” they will inevitably work part-time, with the result that the NHS has trained “what effectively might be two GPs” to do one job.

Admittedly Ms McIntosh was forced to temper her comments and did say that she “fully supports” female GPs and that her comments were “not intended to be derogatory”. Unfortunately they were.

Leaving aside the fact that the problems of the NHS cannot be reduced to a single factor, her comments fly in the face of women’s fight for equality.

Firstly, the assumption that all women will want to have children is in itself discriminatory and fails to acknowledge the increasing number of women who chose not to. Secondly, the fact that men are needed in order to create children appears to have passed Ms McIntosh by.

Men can also choose to cut their hours and work part-time; perhaps a better debate to have would be how we can work towards a fairer society where both men and women share child-caring responsibility equally rather than the current situation in which an estimated 13% of men and 44% of women work part-time ( as at 2011 – EHRC website). Until we get there however, we should be encouraging employers to support women who need to work flexibly and helping them to put in place work structures, which will help to ease the transition into motherhood.

Women like Ms McIntosh should use their influential positions to challenge gender stereotypes instead of making comments, which effectively push women out of the workplace.

Her comments will do little for the woman leaving to go on maternity leave or the woman putting in her first flexible working request upon her return to work. Instead, they will only make women’s struggle for equality harder.


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