BMA sexism report backs overhaul to boost representation of women

The BMA should use quotas and minimum thresholds for at least the next decade to boost representation of women in its committees, a report on sexism and harassment in the association has advised.

LMC representatives: report backs reforms
LMC representatives: report backs reforms

The report - which highlighted a 'poisonous' culture running through the BMA after more than 80 people gave evidence on experiences of sexism, sexual harassment, bullying and other poor behaviour - set out far-reaching proposals to overhaul BMA committees.

The report by leading barrister Daphne Romney QC calls for a time limit on committee membership within the BMA, quotas to ensure that women are better represented and changes to rules and processes to help women progress through to leadership positions within the BMA.

Committee membership should be capped at 12 years, the report says - a timescale it says 'should be more than enough time to make a contribution'.

Time limited posts

It adds that BMA committees should 'introduce quotas or minimum numbers of women in order to better reflect the percentages of men and women in each branch of practice' - and calls for a right of reply to be offered whenever any individual is personally criticised via the BMA's internal listserver messaging system.

Ms Romney wrote: 'I accept that quotas are very unpopular with some, but years of diversity reports and recruitment attempts have not managed to even out the gender balance on the major committees.

'I regard this as a temporary measure to change the culture; I have suggested 10 years hopefully, the balance will change.'

The report says all committee members in the BMA 'must undergo training in diversity, equality, anti-bullying, active-bystander and collegiate working through bespoke courses specifically developed for the BMA' - and should be attended in person rather than carried out online, the report says.

Education

'There will of course be those who think that they do not need it,' the report adds. 'Many of those are likely to be the people who need it most. The training should concentrate in particular on the impact that words and actions have on others, and the importance of respecting colleagues.'

Committee chairs should receive further, mandatory training 'as early as possible into their tenure', it adds - to improve their management of meetings, with a specific focus on inclusion and 'encouraging all members to participate, identifying and dealing with bad behaviour, and understanding the basic principles of fairness and equality in making appointments on that committee'.

Committee members, meanwhile, should receive periodic, anonymous feedback from fellow members - 'along the lines of a 360 degree appraisal', it suggests.

The report also calls for 'careful monitoring of appointment practices, ensuring that rather than the tap on the shoulder for a committee role...everyone is given a chance to apply'.

It points to a specific complaint from one senior female former GPC member about being actively excluded from meetings about work streams she was meant to be leading - and makes clear that 'meetings should not take place without everyone eligible to be there being invited and notified'.

Ms Romney's recommendations also call for the creation of a BMA women's group to offer mentoring and support, limits on the number of committee posts BMA leaders can hold, and possible multi-member constituencies for regional posts to avoid single individuals denying leadership opportunities to others over long periods.

The BMA has committed to implementing recommendations from the sexism investigation in full.

Read the BMA sexism report in full

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