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BMJ. 2004 Sep 25; 329(7468): 742–743.
PMCID: PMC518943

Women in medicine

Doctors of both sexes are seeking balance between life and work
S F Gray, president

Editor—The Medical Women's Federation supports Heath's statement in her editorial that all occupations should seek to mirror the demography of society.1 Child care support at levels found in Scandinavian countries would greatly support women in medicine to achieve their potential. However, access to flexible training at specialist registrar level, which is highly variable by region and speciality, needs to be improved.2

Many female doctors (and their male partners, many of whom are also doctors) have or wish to have families, and hours of work and working conditions are a key factor in the career choices made by young doctors.3 Career paths for men and women doctors must allow for flexibility in the early years for a less than 24 hour commitment to medicine. Young children grow up rapidly, and in a working life of 40 years women doctors can easily achieve and function effectively in top posts and professional activities, provided that they are supported during this critical time. We cannot afford to squander the passion, commitment, and intelligence of young doctors by not providing this flexibility at critical times for both parents. Doctors of both sexes are looking for a better balance between work and life.4

We have moved beyond the world where women could have a career in medicine only by sacrificing family and children on the altar of ambition. Women doctors want successful medical careers and a family life, and a social climate where childcare is shared with the father, and they are showing it can be done.

Above all we want expert medical practitioners, exercising their professional talents for the enhancement of society's health at all levels. We need to address the real issues in medicine, those of equity in a modern Britain.


Competing interests: SFG is the president of MWF, a charity which aims to advance the personal and professional development of women in medicine.


1. Heath I. Women in medicine: continuing unequal status of women may reduce the influence of the profession. BMJ 2004;329: 412-3. (21 August.)
2. Gray S, Alexander K, Eaton J. Equal Opportunity for all? Trends in flexible training 1995-2001. Med Teacher 2004;26: 256-9 [PubMed]
3. BMA cohort study 1995. Ninth report. London: BMA, 2004.
4. Dumelow C, Littlejohns P, Griffiths S. Relation between a career and family life for English hospital consultants: qualitative, semistructured interview study. BMJ 2000;320: 1437-40. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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