The British Medical Association has launched an Ending Sexism in Medicine pledge for healthcare organisations, with the aim of tackling gender discrimination in the profession.
More than 30 organisations including NHS Employers, NHS Providers and numerous royal medical colleges have already signed the pledge, a commitment to enact “real change” in the way they tackle sex discrimination.
The move follows a 2021 study by the BMA which showed that 31% of female doctors encountered gender-based discrimination at work on a daily or weekly basis.
The BMA, the doctors’ professional body and trade union, worked with Chelcie Jewitt, co-founder of the Surviving in Scrubs campaign, to create the Sexism in Medicine report where she gathered an array of testimony of sexist behaviour from women doctors across the NHS.
The survey found that 91% of women doctors in the UK had experienced sexism at work and 42% felt they could not report it.
Dr Jewitt said: “Since starting the Surviving in Scrubs campaign with my colleague Dr Becky Cox last year, we have been overwhelmed with the stories submitted by women facing every kind of sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment and even sexual assault in the NHS.
Ending sexism in medicine
Campaign highlights sexism and misogyny in healthcare
One third of female doctors experience sexism daily or weekly
“Every story is heart-breaking – not only does this kind of endless demeaning of female doctors make their working days so much less bearable, but it is holding back careers, reducing confidence, and wasting so much potential.
“The BMA’s Ending Sexism in Medicine pledge is a way forward. Trusts need to commit not just to stamping out harassment with clear policies and codes of conduct, but also to addressing the myriad ways women are held back by stereotypes in education or poor support of childcare and women’s health. We are bringing as many healthcare organisations as we can together in one joint agreement: that no one in healthcare should be held back because of their gender.”
The Ending Sexism in Medicine pledge aims to unite healthcare organisations to address the cultural and structural factors that cause sexism among doctors and medical students. Signatories commit to working collaboratively on 10 goals:
- Eliminate sexism from career progression opportunities
- End sexual harassment in medicine
- Ensure there are multiple channels for reporting sexual harassment and sexism
- Promote the benefits of gender diversity in medicine
- Guarantee safe and supportive environments for pregnant doctors and medical students
- Remove the detrimental impact that having children and other caring responsibilities have on career progression and work-life balance
- Actively challenge gender stereotypes in medicine
- Increase the visibility and voices of women
- Employees in more senior roles recognise gender bias in the workplace
- Support women’s health
Trusts need to commit not just to stamping out harassment with clear policies and codes of conduct, but also to addressing the myriad ways women are held back by stereotypes in education or poor support of childcare and women’s health” – Chelcie Jewitt, Surviving in Scrubs campaign
“Sexism harms us all, not just holding back individuals, but affecting the care those individuals can offer to patients. This pledge and accompanying ten goals are a framework that will encourage health organisations to eradicate sexism in all its complexity – especially keeping in mind how characteristics such as race, religion, disability and gender identity can intersect with sexism.
“We are glad to have the support of so many vital healthcare organisations at the outset and we are looking forward to that number growing as time goes on. By signing up, they are making an important commitment to moving towards a world where no doctor or medical student faces discrimination because of their gender.”
In 2019, the BMA apologised to its members after a review found an “old boys’ club” culture where female doctors felt “undervalued, ignored or patronised because they are women”. Daphne Romney KC produced the independent report after two female doctors claimed they had been subjected to sexism and sexual harassment by elected BMA members.
Healthcare employers can sign the Ending Sexism in Medicine pledge here.
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