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Women leading the way in medical field

Friday, 08 March 2019

THE once male-dominated profession of medicine has seen a strong swing over the past decade, with far more women than men hired as Barwon Health intern doctors.

Since 2006, the women employed as medical interns at Barwon Health outnumber the men by 79, with 185 compared to 106.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March is Balance for Better and Barwon Health is proud to provide a workplace with great career opportunities for women in Geelong, with women making up about 75 per cent of overall staff.

Barwon Health’s director of nephrology Associate Professor Christine Somerville supervises training for hospital medical officers and said the best candidates were always hired for the job.

“In nearly all medical schools, there are more women than male students now,” she said.

“That’s been the case for many years, and Geelong certainly has had significantly more over the past decade or so.

“Despite the fact that women comprise over 50 per cent of medical students and young doctors, there’s still relatively few women in the more senior medical positions of the industry, but I think that will change for sure.

“There are some specialties where women are still under-represented, such as urology and orthopaedic surgery, but even there Geelong is faring well with Kathryn McLeod one of our respected urologists.

In the latter half of last year, all three of Barwon Health’s new orthopaedic registrars were women.

While A/Prof Somerville has never experienced gender discrimination during her career, she said women still faced hurdles in some medical fields and could be overlooked for promotions due to the time spent raising a family.

“I think we need to put more effort into allowing women to combine family and career,” she said.

“If you look at how female-dominated the nursing staff have been, there is an over-proportion of men in higher positions, which I think is because they’ve been able to advance their careers without taking breaks for families.  Barwon Health has done well to have women in many of those higher positions.

“If we can make it easier, the natural balance is that there would be more women.”

A/Prof Somerville said stereotypes had well and truly moved away from the tradition of men as doctors and women as nurses.

“Early in my career, people would assume you were the nurse, but that’s all changed now.

“That’s a really old fashioned view because there are so many more women doctors and male nurses.”

Image: This year’s medical intern intake at Barwon Health includes 27 women and 15 men