Dr Charlotte Chambers

Session | Welfare
Feeling ‘one step behind’ - exploring the lived experiences of women in the NZ senior medical workforce

NZSA Chambers bio

Charlotte is the Director (Policy and Research) at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS). Charlotte’s work for the ASMS has focussed on different dimensions of the health and well-being of the senior medical workforce. She has examined issues such as rates of presenteeism, burnout and bullying affecting senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand as well as recent work concerning gender bias. Charlotte is a former lecturer in human geography at the University of Otago and completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

Feeling ‘one step behind’ - exploring the lived experiences of women in the NZ senior medical workforce

Women make up a growing proportion of medical workforces worldwide and the New Zealand Medical Council estimates that women will outnumber male doctors by 2025. Research published by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) found women have significantly higher rates of burnout, are more likely to work through illness and self-report as bullied at a higher rate than their male counterparts. The objective of this research was to understand why women are disproportionately negatively affected by these issues.

The presentation reports on a resultant qualitative study which was based on 14 in-depth interviews with women specialists working in the New Zealand senior medical workforce. It focuses on three key themes emerging from the qualitative data; work–life balance, medical time, and gender stereotypes in medicine. The presentation examines the consequences of feeling torn between demonstrating commitment to medical work and meeting the needs of family and/or self, and concerns for how working less than full-time is perceived. It further discusses the significance of addressing temporally inflected constructions of medicine as vocation versus ‘job’ and associated ideals of dedication and professionalism. Finally, it attends to issues around the gendered nature of medical culture and the influence of pervasive gender schemas on professional and personal commitments. This final section examines the significance of gender in structuring daily interaction with patients and colleagues, the role of gender in perpetuating micro-inequities in medical careers, and how gender continues to shape the lived experiences of women in medicine in subtle ways yet with cumulative consequences for well-being. The presentation is focussed on presenting solutions and key considerations for what needs to change to improve the well-being of the medical workforce overall.