Hannah May-Miller is a Junior Doctor at Croydon University Hospital. Amidst all the chaos of the recent changes being imposed on NHS staff, she asks - when will gender equality finally be achieved for female doctors, and other women in the medical profession?
Tuesday was International Women's Day, where the world celebrated the contribution women make to social, economic, cultural and political spheres. The campaign recognises that progress has been made to achieve greater gender equality, but highlights that progress has slowed; the World Economic Forum estimates that the gender gap will not close completely until 2133. Organisers urged countries, organisations and individuals to make a #pledgeforparity. 
Since 1865, when Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman in Britain to obtain a license to practice medicine, women have played an increasingly important role in the medical workforce. Latest figures show that 55 per cent of UK medical students, 48 per cent of doctors, but only 33 per cent of consultants, are women. 
However, rather than celebrating this progress in gender parity in the medical profession, and seeking to reduce the pay gap that still exists between men and women in medicine, we have seen both blatant and subtle sexism from the media and government. In recent months alongside coverage of the junior doctors’ contract dispute, journalist Dominic Lawson of The Times placed the blame for this “crisis in the NHS” at the feet of female doctors. Quoting Dr Max Pemberton (BMJ 2015), he said “We are facing a crisis in the NHS... It’s a crisis caused by having too many female doctors… Quite simply, the average male medical graduate will work full-time, while the average female won’t.”  Angry male and female doctors rebutted this assertion through the avid social media campaign #LikeaLadyDoc. 
54,000 junior doctors across England are fighting against the imposition of a new contract in August. Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt announced the imposition of the contract in a controversial statement to the House of Commons on 11th February, following strained negotiations between the Department of Health and the British Medical Association.
Responding to the announcement of imposition, Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee said: “The decision to impose a contract is a sign of total failure on the government’s part. Instead of working with the BMA to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of patients, junior doctors and the NHS as a whole the government has walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer put forward by the BMA. Instead it wants to impose a flawed contract on a generation of junior doctors who have lost all trust in the health secretary.” 
Over the past few months, junior doctors have been branded as “lazy” and “money-grabbing” by the media. The government has stated that reforms were needed to bring back “a sense of vocation and professionalism” and to tackle the “Monday to Friday culture” within the NHS. Coupled with evidence that the health secretary misrepresented statistics claiming that lack of doctor cover is to blame for increased weekend mortality (the so-called “weekend effect”) it is no wonder that junior doctors are angry.
I am a junior doctor. I graduated with distinction from St George’s University of London in 2010. I am also mother to three children under 4 years old. One day, I hope to become a geriatrician. I have worked more hours than I can count over and above those I am scheduled to work. I have cried in the hospital corridor, praying that my pager would stop bleeping. I attended my interview for core medical training while bleeding and losing my second pregnancy. I have worked nights up until 30 weeks through all of my pregnancies, wearing compression stockings to reduce the leg swelling that sometimes was still there after I went to sleep. I have spent over £5000 on post-graduate exams and mandatory professional fees in the last 2 years alone. I have attended training during maternity leave, studied for exams during my annual leave, and often brought a new born baby with me. I have felt exhausted to the point of breakdown on many occasions.
I do not say this because I want your pity. But it is insulting, to put it mildly, to have the likes of Jeremy Hunt say that I “lack vocation”, and Kathy Gyngell of The Conservative Woman say “women (doctors) do not share men’s commitment to work” and are “corrupting the attitudes of their remaining male colleagues”. 
The proposed junior doctors’ contract is set to widen the gender pay gap, warns Dr Sally Davies, President of the Medical Women's Federation. 
The new contract will remove yearly pay progression, and introduce a nodal point system based on level of experience. This may seem fair and understandable, however doctors who take time out of training (eg. for maternity leave), or train less than full time will be penalised as they will take longer to reach salary nodal points. As NHS Employers have not committed to annual “cost of living” increases in pay rates, this could mean loss of earnings year on year in real terms for anyone working less than full time. There is also a lack of clarity on how pay protection will apply for those who have time out of training between now and the end of pay protection in August 2019. Current guidance states that “should you decide to take a break in your training for longer than 3 months, your eligibility for pay protection will cease.” 
Extension of plain time up to 9pm Monday to Friday, and 7am to 5pm on Saturday, will incur increased child care costs for employees, while remuneration for these hours will fall. This continued attack on a healthy work-life balance, coupled with the inflexibility of shift patterns, will make continuing in medicine impossible for some.
As yet, NHS Employers have not completed an Equality Impact Assessment which is mandated by the Equality Act. This failure to follow due process prior to imposition of the contract is being legally challenged by the BMA.
So to Dominic Lawson and Dr Max Pemberton who said “It’s a crisis caused by having too many female doctors…” I will simply quote Dr Sally Davies:
“In 2017, it is predicted that there will be 50% women doctors in the NHS. The UK population is 51% women. What is wrong with that?
I would like to see the enormous contributions as well as skills that women doctors bring to medicine valued i.e. being made part of the solution rather than seen as part of the problem.” 
Dr Hannah May-Miller is a CT2 (Core Medical Trainee) Junior Doctor.
Junior Doctors are striking for the first time since 1975. To learn more about some of the background to the Junior Doctors’ contract battle and the key concerns, take a look at my article here: http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/the_beginning_of_the_end_for_junior_doctors
A note to women medics. I’m sure your vocation is very rewarding. So is having and rearing a child. However if you don’t think that for you having and rearing a child is MORE rewarding, don’t have one, and be there for me if I have to go into Hospital. (I love and admire all doctors and nurses, male and female, especially the ones who are there for me when I need them!)