Health

Thursday 18 September 2014

Female consultants still a minority (36pc) despite demand

The career path can be more difficult for women who are married and have children

The number of women who are hospital consultants is on the increase, but they still only make up slightly more than one-in-three of these specialists.

Many female patients might prefer to be treated by a female consultant, but the choice is not always available.

The latest figures show that women account for 36pc of the 2,917 consultants in public hospitals. There are 1,053 female consultants, compared to 1,864 of their male colleagues.

They are more represented in the big hospitals in Dublin, and less so in the west and south of the country, according to the HSE figures.

Traditionally, more men have gone on to train as consultants, spending many years, often in hospitals abroad, before getting a full-time post in their late thirties.

The career path can be more difficult for women who are married and have children, although some of the country's finest specialists combine career and family.

A recent study provided some insight with some female hospital doctors saying they had to act "masculine" to cope with the bias and discrimination they face on the wards.

They said balancing motherhood and work commitments is the biggest challenge faced by female doctors with children, and this difficulty causes some women to change their career pathways.

One-third faced bias from patients. Some doctors spoke of subtle questions being asked at interviews about family plans. Others suffered discrimination from male junior doctors and from nurses.

There were much fewer women training in some specialties such as anaesthesia, emergency medicine, obstetrics, paediatrics, pathology and surgery. They were least likely to be training in surgery and were most likely to be found working in psychiatry.

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