Lingering ‘Old Boys’ Club’ culture at BMA found to isolate female doctors

The findings of an independent investigation into sexism and sexual harassment at the British Medical Association have been published and make ‘difficult reading’

This is an edited version of an article first published by Medscape

The British Medical Association’s (BMA) commissioned this report in April this year after two female members of the General Practitioners Committee alleged sexism and sexual harassment by elected members of the BMA. In subsequent interviews, Dr Zoe Norris and Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer talked about the ‘dark, dinosaur-infested depths of the world of GP politics.’

Some of the report’s recommendations have already been implemented and its author, Daphne Romney QC, emphasised that ‘the majority of men in the BMA are not sexist or sexual harassers.’

Inquiry Findings

In her findings, Daphne Romney QC noted that some women ‘feel they are undervalued, ignored and patronised because they are women. This applies to both doctors and members of staff. This is because of an ‘old boys’ club’ culture that lingers on without proper challenge, which treats women as of less importance and ability.

me men continue to address women in demeaning terms, such as ‘girls’, ‘silly girls’, ‘naughty girls’, ‘little ladies’, ‘lady members’, ‘Madam Chair’ and ‘wee lassies’; they 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; they demonstrate a lack of respect towards them, to their contributions, and tend to ignore or belittle their concerns,’ she elaborated.

‘Some of that may be unconscious. On the other hand, there are some behaviours that are unacceptable, including shouting, demeaning women, sexual harassment and bullying. Some of this may be generational, but that does not make it any less offensive.

‘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,’ she also wrote.

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Apologies

Chair of the BMA Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said in a press statement: ‘I am truly appalled to learn that members and staff have been subjected to sexism, sexual harassment and the behaviours described in this report. These behaviours 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 recognise 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.’

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