Date of Award
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Professor Ruairi Brugha
Dr Niamh Humphries
Professor Stephen Thomas
Health Research Board
Feminism, Medicine, Health Manpower
The féminisation of medicine is an international phenomenon referring to increasing numbers of females undertaking medical education and entering the medical workforce. This phenomenon has been a hallmark of the medical profession in Ireland since the 1990s. Associated with this phenomenon are several trends that may have implications for human resources management of the medical workforce. These trends are: distinct variation in the distribution of female doctors across the medical specialties, under-representation of female doctors in senior medical roles, and a greater likelihood of less-than-full-time working among female doctors compared to males. Suggested implications of the féminisation of medicine for human resources management are: the development of shortage and surplus specialties in terms of applicants, a decline in interest in hospital-based specialties, and an overall decrease in available WTE. However, the implications of this phenomenon for the medical workforce in Ireland are unclear. This PhD study provides an in-depth exploration of the féminisation of medicine and identifies the possible implications of this phenomenon for human resources management in Ireland. A qualitative methodological approach was employed for this PhD study as it facilitated exploration of the phenomenon and generation of in-depth knowledge to understand the associated trends. A two-phase semi-structured interview study was carried out: Phase One described and analysed the trends associated with the féminisation of medicine from the experiences of female doctors working in Ireland. Phase Two reported and analysed the perspectives of key national stakeholders in areas related to human resources management to ascertain the consequences of the féminisation of medicine for the medical workforce in Ireland and describe possible policy responses. Key findings are (i) the 'plannable' characteristics (i.e. working hours, and location and duration of training) of specialties are crucial influencing factors on specialty choice for female doctors, (ii) the existence of a gender bias against female doctors in the form of a glass ceiling, and (iii) human resources management as a discipline is in its infancy in Ireland, which has largely ignored not only the féminisation of medicine, but wider challenges facing the medical workforce. These findings support the existence of Acker's theory of gendered organisations with respect to the medical profession in Ireland, which asserts that organisations have developed with a male worker at the core. The key findings of this PhD study suggest that human resources management in Ireland must address organisational structures in the medical profession to reduce a gender bias against female doctors inherent in their foundation. However, human resources management must first address underlying medical workforce challenges, such as the working conditions of doctors, before it can prioritise issues arising due to the féminisation of medicine.
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McAleese S. The "humanisation" of medicine? : the feminisation of medicine: a qualitative study of the career experiences of female doctors and implications for human resources management in Ireland. [PhD Thesis]. Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; 2013.