Cardiology losing out as women 'turned off' by family unfriendly specialty

02/14/05

[Women in UK cardiology: report of a Working Group of the British Cardiac Society Heart 2005; 91: 283-9]/[Women in cardiology: a UK perspective Heart 2005; 91: 273-4]

Heart specialists increasingly fear that the lack of women in cardiology, despite growing numbers of female medical students, will bring down standards of practice and research in the specialty, reveals a British Cardiac Society report.

Published in the journal Heart, the report suggests that women are being "turned off" cardiology by the long hours, lack of flexible training and part time consultant posts, and the absence of role models.

And sexism may still persist, say the authors, with active discouragement of women in a male dominated specialty.

"It is clear that a virtual ceiling composed of long, family unfriendly hours can be as hard to penetrate as one made of glass," they write.

They point out that the gender disparity is all the more worrying, given that women now comprise 59% of medical school applicants and that the quality of female applicants to all specialist registrar posts appears to be better than that of their male peers.

In cardiology, women make up only 9% of applicants for these posts. In 2002 they comprised less than 17% of trainees in the specialty and only just over 7% of consultants, figures that have changed little in a decade.

This is set against rising numbers of consultant cardiologists over the same time frame - from 381 to 665 - and a large survey of career preferences of doctors, indicating that cardiology was one of the most popular choices among women.

"The failure of cardiology to attract women…indicates that a substantial proportion of the talent pool is being lost to other specialties," they write.

"If this is not corrected, it will prove increasingly difficult to maintain high standards of cardiological practice and research in this country," they conclude.

And they call for a raft of measures, including the establishment of mentors, more flexible training and part time consultant posts, and a refusal to tolerate sexism in the specialty.

Two accompanying editorials, outlining the US and European perspectives, reveal that the problem is not confined to the UK.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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