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It is humbug to suggest women are discriminated against when it comes to LMC membership – they often can't even be co-opted

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GENDER GAP

report

From Dr Lewis Miller

Belfast

As chair of an LMC that has striven hard to persuade women GPs to join it, I would agree that women are currently grossly under-represented in the GP political system.

In my experience this is because women GPs won't stand for election to LMCs. They won't even accept co-option. There may well be real and compelling reasons for this but intimidation by male GPs is not one of them. My predecessor as secretary of Eastern LMC was a woman GP who retired because of domestic pressures.

The Northern Ireland GP committee recently convened a group to investigate why women were so poorly represented. It concluded that women were under-represented simply because they were unwilling to stand for election or to devote sufficient time to the political and representational process.

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman, as Dolly Parton so memorably sang. An elected member of the BMA council had such a ‘culture shock' that she left her first meeting in tears. Not a very good way to represent her constituents!

It was ‘confrontational' with ‘antagonistic arguments' and yet it was also ‘a bit of a club'. Am I alone in detecting a certain conflict of ideas here? Would a male debutant have fared any better? Not in my experience.

I have been a GP since 1970. My first senior partner and trainer was female. My wife was encouraged by her GP father to study medicine because he believed she would not be discriminated against because of her gender. I believe he was right.

If anyone wants to join a club they have to play by the existing rules until they are in a position to change them. If they can't stand the rules then they should go off and form a new club by themselves.

It's true that men and women are different but not unequal. So far men have been unable to have babies and women haven't played for Manchester United.

Sometimes it's hard to be a man, especially if you are trying to combine full-time work with family care and political representation. Most younger men can't manage it. Men must work for five years more than women before claiming a pension and are liable to die five years younger.

Gender realignment studies seem to confirm that there are scores of men wanting to become women for every woman who wants to be a man.

So daughters and sisters, please stop whining, stand for election and work to make the NHS and general practice more the way you want it to be.

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