Women doctors reject blame for workforce crisis

Workforce - Claims excess of female students is causing problems.

Delegates at the Medical Women's Federation conference earlier this month only narrowly defeated a motion claiming there are too many women in medicine.

MWF members voted 22 to 30 against the motion, after a speech by former Royal College of Surgeons president Sir Bernard Ribeiro.

Sir Bernard argued that graduate-entry medicine is the answer to a looming workforce crisis caused by an excess of female medical students.

Some undergraduate medical schools are now taking 70 per cent women, he said. Yet fewer than 10 per cent are likely to apply to work in competitive, acute specialities such as surgery or cardiology, he added.

If the current intake ratios to medical school continue, by 2012 the number of women in medicine will exceed the number of men, Sir Bernard said.

In a debate, 'Are there too many women in medicine?', Sir Bernard pointed out that the excess of women will present a 'serious workforce issue'.

Women start out as ambitious as men but by the last year of their training their attitudes change, he said. 'For some reason they do not fulfil their potential. The reason for that is absolutely clear: they realise they have a biological responsibility.'

Sir Bernard said that the sex ratio is equal in graduate-entry medical schools. 'We've reached a point where the male will have a better chance after graduating and maturing. We need to save the lost tribe of medicine, the endangered white male doctor.'

President-elect Dr Clarissa Fabre said: 'Many people would prefer that there wasn't such a high proportion of women going into medicine.'

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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