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Assume doctors are women because ‘most medics will soon be female’

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Male scientists dress up their research with words such as ‘groundbreaking’, ‘novel’ and ‘unique’ more often than female ones, according to a study.

Researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany scoured more than six million published studies to see how commonly two dozen self-promoting words were used.

Results showed scientific papers with women listed as the most important author were 12 per cent less likely to use colourful words to boast about the findings.

And this made other researchers up to 13 per cent less likely to refer back to their work in future studies, which could hamper their career, experts warned.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, comes as a neurologist said patients should assume doctors are women unless they’re told otherwise.

Male scientists dress up their research with words such as 'groundbreaking', 'novel' and 'unique' more often than female ones, according to a study

Male scientists dress up their research with words such as 'groundbreaking', 'novel' and 'unique' more often than female ones, according to a study

Male scientists dress up their research with words such as ‘groundbreaking’, ‘novel’ and ‘unique’ more often than female ones, according to a study

Dr Elizabeth Loder, head of research at The BMJ, said ‘she’ or ‘her’ should automatically be used because the overall number of women doctors will soon overtake men.

Professor Marc Lerchenmueller and colleagues searched the studies for a list of 25 words, all of which were considered to be a form of self-promotion.

Discussing the findings, he told The Times: ‘I think sometimes it’s not even conscious. I sympathise. It can be a long road to get to publish work.

‘In those circumstances one tends to think, ‘This is great’. I just think everyone — the authors, the journals — should perhaps think, ‘Do these results deserve this qualifier?’

Professor Lerchenmueller also argued that it tends to be more socially acceptable for men to come across as forceful, suggesting this may explain the language gap.

He claimed the research was sparked by numerous conversations with his physician wife, who would often question if abstracts of her papers were overhyped.

The study – considered to be the first large analysis of gender differences in language used in medical research – also involved researchers from Harvard and Yale.

Dr Elizabeth Loder, a medical doctor and professor at Harvard University, said it won't be long before the majority of US and UK doctors are female

Dr Elizabeth Loder, a medical doctor and professor at Harvard University, said it won't be long before the majority of US and UK doctors are female

Dr Elizabeth Loder, a medical doctor and professor at Harvard University, said it won’t be long before the majority of US and UK doctors are female

It deemed the research to be led by women if a female was the first or last author, two roles often thought of as being the most important on a paper.

Results showed the gap was even greater in prestigious journals, with papers led by women 21 per cent less likely to use self-promoting words.

Experts said the findings could explain part of the gender gap in academia, with women known to be less likely to progress into the top tier of medicine.

However, none of the research team was able to explain why women may not promote their work as much.

In a piece alongside the study, Dr Elizabeth Loder, head of research at the British Medical Journal, claimed that presuming all doctors are men is outdated.

Instead, ‘she’ or ‘her’ should automatically be used to refer to a doctor if the speaker doesn’t know their gender, she said.

Numbers of female doctors will soon catch up with males in the UK and the US but the medical profession is still clinging to the stereotype of a man as the default.

‘Soon, most doctors in the US, the UK, and Europe will be women; this is already the case in many countries,’ Dr Loder wrote in the BMJ.

‘But medicine is not leading the way in gender equity. Gender discrimination and harassment are serious and pervasive issues in academic and clinical medicine.

At the last count, the NHS in England had 25,263 female GPs to 19,675 male ones. More men are partners, however, meaning they own part or all of the surgery they work in.

In her editorial Dr Loder said there is a ‘gender neutral pronoun revolution’ well under way in society, but that would be a big step for the medical establishment.

She said: ‘Using female pronouns for doctors would force everyone, on a regular basis, to remember that women can be doctors.

‘Furthermore, in situations where most doctors are male, it’s then even more desirable to use a default pronoun of ‘she’ to expand people’s ideas of who can be a doctor.’

PATIENTS SHOULD ASSUME THEIR DOCTOR IS A WOMEN UNLESS THEY ARE TOLD OTHERWISE, SAYS EXPERT

Everyone should assume doctors are women unless they’re told otherwise, an expert has argued.

Dr Elizabeth Loder, a medical doctor, Harvard professor and head of research at the British Medical Journal, claims presuming all doctors are men is outdated.

Instead, ‘she’ or ‘her’ should automatically be used to refer to a doctor if the speaker doesn’t know their gender, she said.

Numbers of female doctors will soon catch up with males in the UK and the US but the medical profession is still clinging to the stereotype of a man as the default.

‘Soon, most doctors in the US, the UK, and Europe will be women; this is already the case in many countries,’ Dr Loder wrote in the BMJ.

‘But medicine is not leading the way in gender equity. Gender discrimination and harassment are serious and pervasive issues in academic and clinical medicine.

At the last count, the NHS in England had 25,263 female GPs to 19,675 male ones. More men are partners, however, meaning they own part or all of the surgery they work in.

In her editorial Dr Loder said there is a ‘gender neutral pronoun revolution’ well under way in society, but that would be a big step for the medical establishment.

She said: ‘Using female pronouns for doctors would force everyone, on a regular basis, to remember that women can be doctors.

‘Furthermore, in situations where most doctors are male, it’s then even more desirable to use a default pronoun of ‘she’ to expand people’s ideas of who can be a doctor.’   

THE UK HAS ‘TOO MANY POSH DOCTORS’ 

The UK has too many posh doctors because people get into medical school almost solely on good school grades, a GP claimed last month.

Dr David Turner, a family doctor working in north-west London, wrote in a column that most doctors come from private or selective schools.

As a result, he said, many medical students are a privileged group who don’t reflect the diversity seen in society.

He said efforts to try and recruit more people from working class backgrounds could make medics more compassionate and more likely to become GPs – a group the NHS is trying urgently to hire.

Writing in GP specialist magazine, Pulse, Dr Turner said: ‘Most of our current junior doctors went to private schools or selective state schools, which is to say that we have too many posh doctors.’ 

He added: ‘It sounds simple, but the reality is that medical schools still admit students almost entirely on the basis of A-level grades.

‘A wealthy, hot-housed, privately-educated student is going to find getting straight As infinitely easier than someone from a poorer background attending an average state school.

‘You don’t need to be super intelligent to become a good doctor.

‘You do, though, need have the ability to work very hard, persevere and show empathy and compassion for patients.

‘If medical schools started to skew their selection process towards these ‘softer’ markers of what might make a good doctor, not only would we start to turn out more caring doctors – we’d also start to generate more medical graduates who want to be GPs.’ 

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