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Where are all the women leaders?



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