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Gender and Medical Workforce Issues

The intersection of gender and the medical workforce is now a critical issue for workforce planning and for the lives of doctors.  Medical workforce structures and environments have been established at a time when doctors were men and had wives attending to all the home and family work.  Women now comprise half the graduating doctors in Australia and are much less likely than older men to have the full-time family support that a wife previously provided.  Systematic attention is needed to understand how women's lives interact with the requirements of postgraduate training programmes and hospital working environments.  Women require flexibility in work and training programmes to accommodate the complexity of their working and family lives.

Workforce planners are now acknowledging that young male doctors are increasingly attracted to the flexibility and limitations on hours of work that women have identified as being crucial to their full participation in their profession.  Systems that are based on coercing doctors to continue a culture of overwork may not be sustainable in the long-term.  Hospitals, medical colleges and workforce planners are now ready to engage with the implications of the changing sex-ratio of doctors.  At Monash University we have been identifying the policy implications of the working styles of female rural doctors through research conducted since 1996.  The most recent study is a gender analysis of rural general practice, titled 'Sustainable Rural Practice: successful strategies for male and female general practitioners'.

Content by Jo Wainer, 23 June 2004