Press Release

Minister Harris announces significant research as a key step in efforts to address gender imbalance in medicine the Irish health service

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD today welcomed the publication of a report by the RCSI’s Working Group on Gender Diversity, which highlights barriers to female entry into and progression in surgical careers.

The Working Group reviewed extensive literature in the area, held a national consultation and examined international best practice in investigating barriers to recruitment and retention which result in gender imbalance. Among the barriers identified were the lack of access for women to high quality surgical fellowships, working conditions during pregnancy and supports available to those returning to work after absence.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Harris said “Gender equality in medicine has, unfortunately, been a journey of slow progress in Ireland. Thankfully, times have changed and in a number of medical areas we are seeing significant female advancement. However, even now, there is a serious disconnect between the percentage of female graduates and the percentage of female consultant surgeons. Despite more than 20 years of gender equality in terms of the numbers of medical graduates, we are still in a position where only 7% of consultant surgeons are female. This disconnect needs attention.

“The world is rapidly changing, and I am glad to see that the leadership of the RCSI is embracing change, and is committed to addressing the current imbalance. The recommendations contained in this report – and I am sure that the RCSI will see that they are implemented – will drive forward change in the area of gender equality.

“For my own part, I’m very pleased to announce today that the HSE is to shortly commence an important piece of research to develop specific data on the lived experience of women working in the Irish health service during and post-pregnancy and on return to work, to establish the range of supports that could be put in place to enhance their experience, and to aid full re-engagement with their careers after pregnancy. It is intended initial focus groups will take place over the summer, followed by an online questionnaire in September, and results by November.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

National and international evidence demonstrates that post-maternity engagement is a critical organisational issue to maintain high levels of employee engagement with women. This becomes particularly evident after the birth of a second child.

This aim of this research is to develop specific HSE data on the lived experience of women during and post-pregnancy and on return to work, to establish the range of supports that could be put in place to enhance their experience, and to aid full re-engagement with their careers post-pregnancy.

The long-term goal of this work is to reduce the barriers to progression of women in the organisation and to strengthen women in leadership.

The key recommendations of the RCSI report are:
• Measures to encourage female medical students considering a career in surgery through better promotion of surgical careers to schools and young women
• Building a culture supporting female surgical trainees including mentoring and improving fellowship options for women
• Consideration of the needs of trainees who are parents to ensure training time is flexible and evaluation of trainee wellbeing during pregnancy
• Encourage diversity through part-time surgical appointment options, specific programmes for female Fellows and research funding ring-fenced for female fellows