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Female Doctors subjected to Sexism, Harassment: Shocking BMA Investigation report

Female Doctors subjected to Sexism, Harassment: Shocking BMA Investigation report

New Delhi: Calling the working culture at British Medical Association an “old boys’ club”, an independent investigation report on the organisation has pointed to deep-rooted sexism and even instances of sexual harassment at the organisation.

British Medical Association (BMA ) is the main trade union and professional association for doctors and medical students across the UK. The BMA commissioned Daphne Romney QC to produce an independent review after reports came to light that two female doctors alleged sexism and sexual harassment by elected members of the BMA. The review was also asked to make recommendations to address gender bias and wider harassment in the BMA, drawing on examples of best practice.

“Some men continue to address women in demeaning terms, such as ‘girls’, ‘silly girls’, ‘naughty girls’, ‘little ladies’, ‘lady members’, ‘Madam Chair’ and ‘wee lassies’” the report stated. The investigator pointed out a large number of female doctors and members of the union’s staff said they felt  “undervalued, ignored, and patronised because they are women.”

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Some women were not viewed as “real doctors” because they work part-time, while conversations “focus on asking them about their children, and how their husbands are coping with their absence, rather than asking them about their achievements, their career aspirations and their views on policy,” the investigator further noted

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At the time the allegations came to light, the BMA Chair of Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said sexism and sexual harassment had no place in the organization and immediately committed to this independent review. With the review now out, he has once again apologized and promised extensive reform to the organization.

The BMA has now published the findings and recommendations of an independent investigation into allegations of sexism and sexual harassment within the organization. The Association apologized to those who have been subjected to these unacceptable behaviors. “The BMA also is committed to implementing the recommendations in the review,” the press release issued by the organisation stated

In her findings, Daphne Romney notes that some women, “feel they are undervalued, ignored, and patronized because they are women. This applies to both doctors and members of staff. This is because of an ‘old boys’ club’ culture for some that lingers on without proper challenge, which treats women as of less importance and ability.” She also hopes that “this Report will focus attention within the BMA on the damaging elements of its discriminatory culture, including the (limited) instances of sexual harassment.”

Daphne Romney also writes, “I must emphasise that the majority of men in the BMA are not sexist or sexual harassers, and every committee is not riddled with discrimination. There are hundreds of BMA committees, most of which carry out their work perfectly properly”.

In response to the findings, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “I am truly appalled to learn that members and staff have been subjected to sexism and sexual harassment and the behaviors described in this report. These behaviors have no place within the BMA. I am deeply sorry to those who have been affected and I thank all those individuals who came forward to contribute to the review – I recognize their strength and courage in speaking out.

“The report makes for difficult reading. I am determined that we learn from it, and, most importantly that we make the necessary changes to ensure we become a truly inclusive association by implementing the recommendations.”

Dr Helena McKeown, a Chief Officer at the BMA and Representative Body Chair, said: “I am deeply sorry that doctors and staff have endured this inexcusable behavior. I am of an age where sexism has pervaded so many parts of my personal and working life for too long. It’s not just within the BMA but that doesn’t mean we accept it; we don’t, and we won’t. I want the BMA to be an organization, that as a doctor and as a woman, I am proud to be a part of and those who follow me will also be proud. This is a springboard for change and that change has already begun.”

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The BMA’s Chief Executive, Tom Grinyer, said: “The allegations and the commissioning of the report by Daphne Romney QC were a backdrop to my appointment as Chief Executive. Today I have announced that I want to go one step further than the recommendations, and introduce an external Guardian of Safe Working and internal Staff Listening Champions for all involved in the BMA.

“I arrived in July determined to tackle these cultural issues and this report gives us clear recommendations to do that. I call on all of us to help us deliver a fully inclusive BMA.

“I am determined that we make the BMA a place where staff and members feel valued and respected for who they are and what they do. From today we move forward, we begin to heal the BMA and to make it an organization to be proud of.”


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