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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Why are so many obs/gynae doctors male??

92 replies

dontlaugh · 15/08/2011 18:07

Bearing in mind medical students are now roughly 50/50 in college and the numbers of qualifying GPs are majority female. i often wondered about this and am now brave enough to post here.

OP posts:
TheRealMBJ · 15/08/2011 18:09

Because they are consultants and climing the career ladder in the uK is made very difficult for female hospital doctors.

MrsPlesWearsAFez · 15/08/2011 18:11

Is it possible that the high level of female GPs compared to hospital based specialties is due to working hours?

Most of the female GPs that I've ever had/seen have been part time, and it tends to be more male GPs that work at the Out of Hours service here.

PamBeesly · 15/08/2011 18:11

A vocation? A friend of mine asked me this recently and I honestly hadn't thought of it. I'm pregnant with my first child and all three consultants in my hospital are male, I'm sorry I have no other answers for you. I will watch this thread with interest though

dontlaugh · 15/08/2011 18:15

I remember in college we were told 98% of obs were male - this proportion was not reflected in any other speciality at all e.g. psychiatry etc. I know the GP hours are more family friendly, I suppose I was trying to illustrate there are women out there, they are just not choosing this speciality.

OP posts:
Shoutymomma · 15/08/2011 18:16

Men have a head start as they are more likely to have had a good look at a fanny much sooner. (I'd fail the exams because, only ever having seen one in a mirror, I'd lable all the bits backwards.)

PamBeesly · 15/08/2011 18:18

Shoutymomma Grin
Is it really 98%? thats exceptionally high

TheRealMBJ · 15/08/2011 18:19

It's not working hours IME, it is the fact that the path to being a hospital consultant is made very, very difficult for women. It is a long and uncertain process too and although not impossible (many individuals do manage it) it is very difficult to combine having a family and a training post.

TheRealMBJ · 15/08/2011 18:20

I'm not sure that there are more male obs/gyn than other surgical specialities though, are there?

ViolaTricolor · 15/08/2011 18:21

Grin shoutymomma.

I asked a male obs/gynae friend this once, and he said that he felt that a lot of medicine was about keeping people alive to ever greater ages or in the face of long odds. He of course valued that work, but he said he wanted to spend more time dealing with younger people at a very different and interesting, exciting time of their lives, albeit one with its own intense heartbreak at times. He was lovely, I'm sure he is brilliant.

Obviously that's a one-off anecdote, which in no way explains an imbalance beyond what is endemic in the consultant tier.

ElephantsAndMiasmas · 15/08/2011 18:21

I'd like to know too. What proportion of willyologists are women?

Niecie · 15/08/2011 18:23

The pathway to being a consultant is not especially relevant, if as the OP says, 98% of the obs/gyne consultants are men but this doesn't happen in other hospital specialities. There is something else going on, isn't there?

I think if I were a doctor I would avoid it because it is almost too obvious a choice for a woman doctor.

BikeRunSki · 15/08/2011 18:24

I wish I knew, but I don't trust them.

Until last week, when I actually met the consultant I have been assigned in both pg and have never met before, who listened to me, had an intelligent discussion and agreed that I could have an active VBAC. Better than his ridiculous young, female junior doc wh, asked me, as I was throwing up, in my 9th week of hyperemisis, drip in arm, wee the colour of tea, if I had tried easting ginger biscuits.......

sallysparrow157 · 15/08/2011 18:26

because it is a surgical speciality. Surgical specialities are less compatible with family life, not only during training but also when you are a consultant - an obstetric consultant will be called in for emergencies at any time during the day or night throughout their career wheras a GP for example only has to do a few years in hospital then if they so choose they will never work a night or a weekend ever again.
It's harder to go part time in a surgical speciality than jobs such as general medicine because often elective operating lists will be only on some days of the week - if the prolapse repair list is on tuesday and you only work mon, wed and fri because you are also bringing up a family, you will never get good at operating on prolapses (very simplified but hope you can see what I am getting at)

I get so annoyed at people who think that men go into obs and gynae because they get a sexual thrill from looking at womens bits/intimidate women or whatever the hell else gets posted on here sometimes.
( I also get pissed off that people think I am a paediatrician because I am a girl who likes playing with babies (I am training to be a paeds intensive care doctor -most of my patients are unconscious and ventilated so it's not really that fluffy!))

Doctors choose their speciality based on what they are good at, what kind of career they want (hands on vs office based), what they are interested in the pathology and physiology of. As it happens, although there are a lot of men in O&G as it is a surgical speciality, I think there are proportionally more female O&G surgeons than there are female surgeons in other specialities, that's certainly the case in my experience though I have no stats to back it up

Shoutymomma · 15/08/2011 18:27

EandM - don't know. I'm a cock-eyed-optimist, but I don't suppose that counts.

dontlaugh · 15/08/2011 18:29

I don't think anyone intimated that men are in it for sexual thrills, I certainly never did. It's more complex and involved with many factors, I am sure.

OP posts:
InMyPrime · 15/08/2011 18:30

When I worked at a medical school, I wondered about this too, thinking it was a throwback to the patriarchy in this day and age. I asked some (female medic) colleagues and the response was that a.) it's much tougher for women to get to consultant level than men in any field and b.) a lot of women don't go for obstetrics / gynae because it has very anti-family hours (ironically). Midwife numbers are under pressure for a similar reason - high stress and irregular hours.

Childbirth is very unpredictable unlike being e.g. a dermatologist or endocrinologist where people turn up with x symptoms, are diagnosed and any surgery is scheduled and relatively low-risk. With childbirth, outcomes are unpredictable and you can go from having a fully healthy mother and foetus to seriously ill / dying mother and baby in a matter of hours or less. Claims for medical malpractice are common. Also labour wards have patient throughput that peaks and troughs unpredictably so leaving work on time is often out of the question. Personally, the obstetrician I've been seeing is top of her field, on government regulation committees, trains obstetricians and monographers etc - and still managed to have 3 children! I think she is some kind of superhuman though - she skydives and sails and rock-climbs as well....

VivaLeBeaver · 15/08/2011 18:31

I really can't believe that the figure is 98%. I work with ob/gynae drs and would have thought it's much more like 50/50. In fact where I work on the new intake every registrar is female - all eight of them. But most intakes are 50/50. Though obviously this is one hospital but I'd have thought it was fairly representative.

A third of the consultants are female.

If the figures nationally do show more men I'd have thought it could be because it's such a family unfriendly speciality. Having to work nights, weekends in a way that a gp doesn't and even that some hospital drs don't.

ElephantsAndMiasmas · 15/08/2011 18:32

But then how come the vast majority (AFAIK) of midwives are still female?

Surely they face similar barriers in terms of family friendly hours as you say? Often midwives and OG docs are working at exactly the same times. But one is overwhelmingly male and the other, female.

dontlaugh · 15/08/2011 18:33

Sorry Viva, I was quoting from my college days, which were about 15 years ago. i don't know how toget current figures. the 98% always stuck with me though.

OP posts:
InMyPrime · 15/08/2011 18:33

That should read sonographers - bizarre auto spell checker! Maybe she trains monographers as well who write monographs on obstetrics... Grin

sallysparrow157 · 15/08/2011 18:34

elephants - once again, being a willyologist (aka urologist though your name is better as ladies have urine and urethras too!!) is a surgical speciality so the majority are male

In response to other posts - being a female consultant and having a family in a medical specilaity these days is an awful lot easier than it used to be - it's a lot easier to go part time, as a junior it is shift work rather than 24 hour on calls etc so becoming much more 'female friendly'. Being a female consultant in a surgical speciality is much harder becase, as I mentioned earlier, you miss out on a lot more if you are part time and also the better jobs are very competitive, and the time it is most competitive is when you are at registrar level (ie in late 20's to 30's) so if you choose to have babies at that point, all your make colleagues will be getting things published and what have you and making their CV so much more impressive.

Also, consultant surgeons get called in at 2am far more often than consultant physicians and obviously unless they are doing an out of hours shift GP's don't get called in at all.

meditrina · 15/08/2011 18:35

I think the surgical specialties are less attractive to parents who expect to be the main carer, owing to the need for OOH (plastic surgery being a big exception to this).

There are plenty of women consultants in other specialties and women GPs, so full, rewarding medical careers are being achieved.

I think the "obstacles" are more to do with the desire/ability of individuals to take on the anti-social hours aspect. That may need to be tackled in wider society, not just in one (of the many) careers with inherently anti-social hours.

But does anyone know the figures for women plastic surgeons? The hours are much more predictable, and so I cannot see the logistic problems having the same impact. It would be interesting to see if they even up, as one would expect.


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AyeRobot · 15/08/2011 18:36

Don't the male consultants have families, then?

skrumle · 15/08/2011 18:37

i can't believe it's 98% as the consultant i saw antenatally with DS was a woman, one of her registrars was a woman, and the consultant who delivered DS by c-section was a woman.

even with DD (going back a few years now) i think i saw 3 different female consultants/registrars, and maybe 6 or 7 male ones?

TheRealMBJ · 15/08/2011 18:38

I agree Viva that figure does sound implausible. sparrow is spot on. It is a surgical speciality and I do think (although have no figures to back me) that as far as surgical specialities go women are quite well represented in obs/gyn. Whereas there are virtually no female urologists (willyologists Grin)

But the surgical speciality thing is more complex than just erratic, unpredicatable working hours. More than any other branch of medicine, the surgical specialities are very much still 'bastions of maleness' and women who choose to enter into them do (and have to have) balls of steel. (For want of a better expression Grin)

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