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Pulse Gender Gap Report

By Rob Finch and Emma Wilkinson

Women GPs are grossly under-represented in almost every organisation with influence over the shape and future of general practice, an exhaustive investigation by Pulse has found.

Sexist attitudes, macho politics and a lack of family friendly policies are also conspiring to keep women away from the levers of power.

Even within individual practices, many women report that a lack of respect for part-time working and their need to balance work and home life is restricting their careers.

The shocking findings come despite the fact women GPs now make up 41 per cent of the profession and two-thirds of new entrants. Yet figures collated by Pulse show that women often make up less then one in five of the GP members of major organisations and committees.

The BMA is stricken by male dominance, with women accounting for just 24 per cent of GPs on the council and 17 per cent of GPC members.

LMCs are even worse, with just 11 per cent of chairs and 6.6 per cent of secretaries being women.

Dr Pauline Brimblecombe, an elected member of the BMA council, said her first meetings had been such a ‘culture shock' she had left in tears. She said: ‘It is a confrontational environment with antagonistic argument which puts women off. Because a lot of the men have done it for a long time, it is a bit of a club.'

Dr Clare Gerada, a member of the RCGP council and former chair of Lambeth LMC, said the LMC conference and GPC meetings were ‘aggressive' with speakers being heckled.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, admitted the committee had to ‘get away from the grey suited men's club image'.

He said: ‘We've been aware for some time that we are

under-representative and we are trying to do something, especially at local level.'

PCTs are also failing to attract women. Just 13.1 per cent of GP positions on professional executive committees are taken by them.

Women chair just 22 of the 302 PCT PECs in England.

Dr Anita Campbell quit as South East Sheffield PCT PEC chair in 2003 because the job was not sustainable with a family and clinical work.

She said: ‘We were having 10 to 15 meetings a week. It was very hard work and not family friendly.'

• The scale of the problem, page 2

• Sexist putdowns, page 3

• What can be done? page 24

• Have your say, page 26

• Comment, back page

Equal? You are joking

Dr Ethie Kong believes an ‘old boys' network' still prevents women from taking high-profile positions.

Difficulties balancing home and practice life also make it harder for women GPs to take on political roles, she says.

Dr Kong, a GP in Willesden, north-west London, who has had several key positions on LMCs and is now PEC chair of Brent Teaching PCT, said she had to turn down possible BMA and GPC posts because of family commitments.

‘We're in the "new man" era, but no matter how equal it is, it is still not equal.'

Out of power

• Proportion of GPs who are women 41.5%

• Senior partners 18.8%

• GPC members 17.3%

• PCT professional executive committee members 13.1%

• LMC secretaries or chairs 8.3%

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