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Research in the BMJ Open journal highlights that more needs to be done to counteract male only role stereotypes.

The study, which was conducted by several universities and NHS trusts, asked 81 female surgeons about their experiences within the medical profession. 88 per cent felt that surgery remained a male dominated field throughout all specialisms whilst 59 per cent claimed to have witnessed or experienced gender bias or discrimination at varied points in their career, both from colleagues and members of the public. The participants went on to say that women in the profession were not offered enough support to encourage their development and progression, deterring many from pursuing it and therefore potentially depriving the NHS of otherwise valuable and highly skilled professionals.

One major issue identified by the study is poor management of family planning policies when reconciled with patient care, such as allowing for flexible hours and career breaks. Attempting to balance family commitments with excessive working hours and workloads can cause working mothers to become burned out, leading some to seeking alternative career paths with more family friendly options available. Another area for concern was a lack of female role models, contributing to the perception that success is only limited to white males and therefore demotivating potentially strong female candidates. The study recommends that this should be challenged ‘at every level’ by eliminating pay and promotion disparities and changing existing family policies to attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

Although this research concerns the medical profession it is a strong indicator of the issues that can deter female workers from entering and progressing within a profession, something that can have a significant effect upon a company’s gender pay gap. Companies should make sure that no female employee is subject to any form of discrimination as a result of her family commitments and be prepared to take disciplinary action against individuals responsible for this. Senior female members of staff should be given opportunities to interact with younger employees in order to demonstrate to them that they are able to progress and provide them with the inspiration and guidance with which to do so.  

Organisations with over 250 employees should remember that their annual gender pay gap reports are due in April 2019. For many, this will be the second mandatory report they will have to publish and it will be clearly visible if their company continues to display a gap or has seen it increase in the last 12 months.

Further information

Sex discrimination: overview and in depth

Gender pay gap reporting: overview and in depth