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Where are all the women leaders?

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Those of us attending LMCs conference in a few weeks time are relishing the prospect of duelling once again with colleagues in an attempt to convince GPC of the priority areas to focus on for general practice.

I’m intrigued by Derbyshire LMC’s motion highlighting concern over under-representation of women within the GPC and calling for an investigation into making the GPC fully representative of the profession.

I doubt that those speaking for it will arrive on stage with green, white and purple military sashes (a girl can dream) however I look forward to hearing them present their argument. I also wonder if anyone will speak against it? The LMCs conference is generally a male-dominated affair; I’m unsure if there would be enough females in the audience to sufficiently boo them down if they did, but I’d give it a bash.

As a young GP who aspires to being on GPC one day (when I have gained more experience) I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that this issue even needs debating. In 2013. Really? Hmmm…

I’m not going to use this blog to explore the reasons why it may be so because we already know them. Penny Newman’s 2012 report ‘Releasing Potential: Women Doctors and Clinical Leadership’ explored this in detail and the Medical Women’s Federation is an active and loud voice on such issues. I just think it’s a bit of a shame.

In the short time I’ve been in general practice, I feel the reasons are brought up every so often in various forms. Whether it’s under-representation in CCGs or within the GPC, the issue is the same: there aren’t many women in leadership positions in general practice.

The problem is not just within medicine. The percentage of women on boards of FTSE 100 companies fell to 17.3 per cent in March according to Boardwatch, the group that compiles the figures. Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management set up the 30 Per Cent Club to promote board diversity.

Maybe general practice needs something similar? But I wouldn’t want a position just because of my XX genes, I want it because I’m the best person for the job. Helena Morrissey is also against quotas, which undermine women and don’t solve the problem.

Thankfully my personal experience shows that attitudes are changing and barriers are being dropped. Last week I became vice-chair of my LMC, despite being 16 weeks pregnant. I was positively encouraged to take up this opportunity and when the conversation first arose in January, I obviously couldn’t predict whether I would have a developing bump or not but I had honest conversations about this being a possibility and was met with nothing but encouragement.

Bring on LMCs conference on May 23rd and 24th. And good luck to my Derbyshire colleagues… It’s going to be fascinating to see what comes of the issue being raised. Will we see more women and increased minority representation on the GPC?

The key is we ensure that the best GPs represent our profession and that we seriously get with the times and remove any barriers that may be preventing this. I hope that bringing this issue to the LMCs conference will bring about some positive action and will actually facilitate the increase of female GPs on the GPC by merit. We shouldn’t just be talking about diversity: we need to see progress.

Allow me to finish with a quote: ‘Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.’ (George Carlin).

Dr Sara Khan is a GP in Hertfordshire and edits the MWF’s magazine, Medical Woman. She is also involved in her local CCG and LMC. You can tweet her @DrSaraK

Readers' comments (10)

  • Vinci Ho

    I believe that women are under-represented in GPC and it is a shame the issue needs debating in LMC conference.
    But more importantly , is there a disparity between 'war hawks' and 'war doves ' within the organisation in defending the profession against the government in this 'War Against Bullying and Bashing'????

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  • When the female GPs begin pulling their weight by doing a proper full time job then they can start talking equality.Before then its lipstick on a pig!

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  • to anonymous 11:47 - are you serious? are you saying that "part-timers" men (of which there are a lot now) or women don't know what it is to be a GP? "man-up" and at least put your name to your comments!

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  • i think if there was more female representation at board level, then they would not recommend half the changes that they are talking about in GP land. General practice is becoming more female run and so we need the representation of the largest constituency. It would certainly make our negotiation stance better and more representative.

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  • - anonymous salaried!

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  • Why shouldn't there be quotas for women? After all, there seems to be one for men - an assumption that 80% of leaders should be men. We women need to grow up and recognise that systems never really change until they are forced to and that quotas/targets etc are but a short term instrument for change. Evolutionary change can be just that, dependent on happen chance/mutation and we humans fight all we can to control our reproductive destinies, so why not our those of our working lives.

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  • I can only comment on my personal experience, but the only thing that came between me and sitting on a CCG board was...me.

    I was elected to sit on my locality board by a clear majority but resigned on maternity leave with my 3rd child, despite my husband having full child care responsibilities.

    Perhaps women just prefer to spend their evenings with their families rather than LMC meetings........just a thought.

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  • David Bush

    I consider myself reasonably liberal and egalitarian, but I cannot accept all this talk of 'quotas' for leaders of each gender.
    You ask 'Where are all the women leaders?' Leaders are not created. They emerge from the crowd as a result of their own development, attitudes and actions. A strong leader will be accepted as such, whatever their gender, and will be welcomed by those they aspire to lead.
    I suspect that the dirth of women leaders is related to many factors, including genetic make-up (personality), family commitments, part-time working etc etc. That does not make it wrong, it is just a fact of life.
    There are many energetic, capable and ambitious female politicians, and yet we have had only one female PM. The same story is repeated in the armed forces, industry and other occupations.
    Whilst discrimination against women undoubtedly occurs, there will be little discrimination against a strong leader, whatever their gender.

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  • How about the saintly Claire Gerada.She's been doing a superlative job hasn't she.....NOT!

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  • Women are generally not daft enough to do such a thankless task when they could be doing something of far more use like watching television with their partners/kids/pets.
    I am male and now in my 50's but having lost my father to such ridiculous activities as a child I'm with the ladies on this one. .

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