President’s report October 2009

I recently Googled ‘medical women productivity australia’ and found the first relevant reference was on the AFMW website. The next relevant link was to a paper commenting on the lack of female professors in Australian Medical Schools, then came the eye-opener of a blogspot with Female Doctors Hurt Productivity report. Go check out that one yourselves!

Regardless of your opinion on female doctors and productivity, there isn’t that much published easily accessible information on the situation of Medical Women in Australia. Certainly most of the discussion revolvers around hours worked and numbers of patients seen. Although there is an acknowledgement that male and female doctors work in different ways, no one is publishing on efficiency and effectiveness of medical practice by gender. Productivity measured by the number of hours worked or the number of patients seen doesn’t strike me as a very informative way to judge what is going on  – I don’t think there are very many other industries that would measure their productivity on inputs alone and then make important decisions and proclamations about the value of their Workforce by gender! So why do we allow it? (If you don’t know what I am referring to, check out that Female Doctors Hurt Productivity report.)

As it stands, the Australian Federation of Medical Women, modest as we are, are the only medical organisation collating information of this nature for you and contributing to submissions like the Equal Opportunity Consultation. We are linking with the State Societies, and responding to other Government requests for submissions on your behalf.

AFMW is representing you at:

– the level of the Federal Health Department
– Government forums and round tables
– the Office for Women
– The Australian Women’s Coalition
– Womenspeak
– The AMA
– The National Rural Women’s Coalition

AFMW is also obtaining grants for projects of interest to medical Women. Recent grants from the Office for Women include:

– $89,000 grant for Leadership development for Medical women (2008/9)
– $50,000 grant for the Gender-based Medical Education Project (2003/04)
– $50,000 grant for the Women Talk Cancer Project (2003/04)
– $50,000 grant for the Support for Rural and Remote Female Doctors in Australia Project (2004/05)
– $50,000 grant for the Achieving gender and cultural competence by Australia’s medical workforce (2004/05)

AFMW also:

– Runs workshops and conferences on issues of interest to Medical Women
– Supports you professionally and personally
– Faciliates your finding out what is going on elsewhere in health areas of particular interest to women
– Expands your networks locally, nationally and internationally
– Provides a platform for you to advocate on areas you are passionate about, both nationally and internationally
– Provides professional advocacy on issues important to medical women e.g. Workforce Issues including issues like National Registration (and how its implementation may have unintended differential gender effects) and public health policy
– Advocates for the health of all Australians but in particular women and children

AFMW and your State Society provide learning and leadership opportunities regarding the running of organisations. You can obtain a:

– Broad understanding of nonprofit organisations, including structures, systems, culture and life cycle
– Basic understanding of the role of chief executive officer
– Basic skills in management and leadership in order to plan, organize, lead – and coordinate activities in a nonprofit organisation
– Basic oversight and governance provided by resourced and trained board of directors
– Basic and integrated planning processes for strategic direction, program development and marketing and evaluation, financial management, fundraising, and staffing and supervision of employees and volunteers

Registrars and students need to become involved in other medical organizations, irrespective of whether it is the AMA, colleges, university committees, hospital committees or AFMW. The forum is not so important; what is important is that they make a contribution to the wider medical community. Women need to participate when they represent half the medical profession. Women have a different perspective or way of making decisions. There is the issue both of obligation and the way power is organised and used. AFMW offers unique opportunities for medical women to contribute locally, nationally and internationally.

Do you think you are getting your $20 worth? Do you think AFMW is worth more?

As AFMW President I am working to provide an organisation worth belonging to and trying to establish AFMW’s relevancy. Relevance is mostly reflected in membership (and AFMW Membership is via the States although individual memberhip is available) and what Medical Women are willing to pay to have it. Indeed, I had not realised the relevance of the pay-part until asked a number of times on trips to Canberra. It seems bureaucrats are like psychotherapists – what we are prepared to pay says something about how important we think something is. So far I have been met with quite a bit of puzzlement about out membership fee, and although it has been kept low because of beliefs about equity and access for Medical Women, when I launch into the explanation, there remains an undercurrent of bemusement. One explanation given to me was that if that is all we think we are worth, and if for that level of payment the majority of medical woman aren’t members, then why should they listen to us? This is a good question.

AFMW can become a voice that has real impact on the health of women and children and communities as well as a voice for our continued professional advancement. AFMW is heard by people who make decisions. AFMW holds a real and recognised place at the consultation table. However, we must create an organisation that is viable (financially sound), strong in numbers (membership), speaks with a collective voice (presence), is recognised as credible (respected), demonstrates authority and wisdom (our past and present) and offers considered opinion (experience/philosophy).

To do this and to be this, AFMW needs your financial commitment, but we also need your personal contribution – whether it is in supporting your State Society, writing submissions for us or attending meetings on our behalf. However, the gain is not just one way – Medical Women have a lot to gain from the existence of AFMW. Please consider this when it comes time to pay for your own membership – and please encourage your friends and colleagues to join. AFMW does this work for you, your female colleagues, and for those who are to follow us. At the end of the day, we exist for you, and I challenge you to find another organisation who is doing this for you in the way AFMW has done in the past, and is doing for you in the present. Help make AFMW a force to be reckoned with.

Medical Women and Equal Opportunity – is it as fair as you think?

I am currently involved, on behalf of AFMW, with the Australian Women’s Coalition’s Discussion Paper for the Australian Women’s Coalition for the Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act and Agency. This is being prepared by the Women and Work Research Group, from the Work and Organisation Studies, Faculty of Economics University of Sydney. I have learnt a number of things from the draft discussion paper prepared by Alexandra Heron, their Research Associate. I am going to share some of its contents with you.

The federal government has established a review of the Act and is seeking consultation and feedback from women’s organisations amongst others. AFMW through AWC, has been provided with an opportunity to represent the views of Medical Women with respect to this. The review offers an opportunity to contribute to developing better institutional mechanisms for achieving more equitable outcomes for women in the paid workforce. I know many of us think that we have well and truly achieved equality, but unfortunately the statistics, including for Medical Women, do not support this view.

Did you know:

– there is substantial evidence that women’s progress at work has stalled, especially in relation to pay equity.
– there is also evidence that the way the Act tries to promote EEO, largely through education and advice, is ineffective?

Did you know :

-that progress on pay equity alone, has been poor over the last 20 years?
– that the pay gap between men’s and women average weekly ordinary time earnings (that is not including overtime) has recently widened to 17.5%?
– that far fewer women than men work at all. Even fewer work full-time?
– that part-time workers suffer from lack of career advancement.
– that women are not in the better paid occupations and industries in equal numbers with men.
– that the work they do, even when of comparable worth to men’s, is valued and paid less?
– that these facts have detrimental impacts on women’s lifetime earnings and income in old age?

The AWC submission will be published at http://awcaus.org.au when finished; by contributing and writing to your federal MPs in support of the submission you can help us in our aim to achieve equity and equality for all Australians.

Here are some more statistics regarding the major indicators of women’s position in the workforce:

– the gender pay gap was 18.5% in 1984: in 2009 it remains 17.4% (EOWA Review Issues Paper, p4);
– women are substantially underrepresented in the manual trades: only 2% of women work in these;
– the proportion of top managers in ASX200 companies who are women has declined from 12% in 2006 to 10.7% in 2008 (Pay, Power and Position: beyond the 2008 EOWA Australian census of women in leadership, EOWA, Sydney.)
– between 2001-2007, on average female managers earned 25% less than male managers: the research estimated 70-90% of gap was due to discrimination (Watson, I. (2009), The gender wage gap within the managerial workforce: an investigation using Australian panel data, 2009, HILDA Survey Research Conference, University of Melbourne, 17 July 2009)
– of all working women aged 25-54, 44% worked part-time in 2007; of men, 10% percent did (Productivity Commission report on part-time employment)

What do you think should be done about the wider issue of equal opportunity? What do you think about the fact that I have found it difficult to come by meaningful information regarding medical women – apart from the claims we ‘hurt’ productivity and women are under-represented in professorial positions in Australian Medical Schools? And who do you think should do it? If you think AFMW should be doing this, then please, support us. To do this we AFMW need your financial commitment, but we also need your personal contribution – whether it is in supporting your State Society, writing submissions for us or attending meetings on our behalf. AFMW does this work for you, your female colleagues, and for those who are to follow us. Please think of this when you pay your membership and encourage your colleagues to join AFMW.

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AFMW Author