More than 70 participants took part in the AMA Gender Equity Summit to discuss the cultural and systemic barriers to progress towards gender equity in medicine, and to determine what practical actions could be implemented to address them.
The summit was the first of its kind for the Federal AMA. It had the backing of the AMA leadership team and speaks of the commitment, both within the AMA and the medical profession at large, to work towards achieving gender equity.
The summit heard from a range of speakers from industries outside of medicine about how they have successfully shaped culture and systems to encourage gender equity in their workplaces and how this might translate to changing medical workplaces and culture.
Representatives from Medical Colleges and health services also shared their strategies for working towards gender equity, while acknowledging that there is quite a way to go.
The summit highlighted the importance of prioritising measures to improve gender equity in medicine not only for the benefit of doctors, but also for the quality of care they provide. Doctors from diverse backgrounds bring extensive skills and perspectives to enable the medical workforce to be more responsive and empathetic to individual patient needs and, importantly, broader community needs.
Summit participants generated a wide range of short-term and long-term strategies to address remaining cultural and systemic barriers to achieving gender equity.
Actions ranged from things as simple as tapping capable women on the shoulder to encourage them to apply for leadership positions, or ensuring access to breastfeeding facilities at academic events, through to more profound system changes required to address entrenched gender biases.
More structural reforms required include improving access and uptake of parental leave and flexible work arrangements for men as well as women. This was a key recommendation to come out of the summit.
Ensuring access to leave entitlements, including for general practice registrars and interstate portability for doctors working in the public health system, was also considered central to improving work-life balance for both women and men in medicine.
The mood of the summit was very positive and acknowledged that we all have a vital role to play in promoting gender diversity and inclusion. Importantly, the summit provided an opportunity for participants to share ideas between specialty and industry groups and to develop support networks to drive change.
The conversations that began at the summit will continue well beyond the event.
At last year’s AMA National Conference, the AMA supported a motion to develop practical strategies to drive cultural change within the profession and workplaces in support of equal participation across gender in the medical workforce.
While the representation of women on the AMA’s Board now sits at 36 per cent, it is much more variable among our Councils and Committees, with some doing well and others not so well. We know that despite the dramatic increase in female participation in the medical workforce in recent decades, under-representation of women in the upper echelons of the medical profession persists.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show that women make up 40 per cent of the medical workforce and 53 per cent of early-career practitioners, including just over half of all specialists-in-training.
But women are not progressing through to senior positions in representative numbers, despite extensive evidence of equal competence and interest in doing so. This is not just a problem in the medical profession. Entrenched gender bias, discrimination and inequity remain features of most Australian workplaces, and society at large.
But we have to start somewhere, and while it’s very difficult to eradicate unconscious bias, we can acknowledge it, and design our systems to avoid allowing it leading to discrimination. The AMA Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee will play an important role in actioning the outcomes from the Summit to drive progress towards achieving gender equity both internally and externally.
AMA GENERAL PRACTICE AND WORKPLACE POLICY
More information is available on the AMA Gender Equity Summit website at https://ama.com.au/ges19
More pics from the summit can be viewed in the 1 April 2019 PDF edition of Australian Medicine.