Women eye top fields in medicine

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 October, 1997, 12:00am


Women are eyeing top jobs in medicine as more opt to join the profession.

Highly paid fields such as surgery are currently dominated by men, and women after graduation are concentrated in specialties such as psychiatry, paediatrics and gynaecology, which offer more flexible hours and conditions.

According to Hospital Authority figures, women make up only a quarter of its medical staff.

There has been a rise in the number of women opting for a medical career - there are 71 female first-year medical students at Chinese University this year, up from 57 in 1994.

The number of male first-year students has fallen from 114 to 92 in the same period.

The gap is also closing at the University of Hong Kong, where 395 women and 560 men studied medicine in the 1996-97 academic year. In the previous academic year, there were 269 women and 579 men.

Once in the profession, women are often 'shifted to the periphery', according to Chinese University psychologist and researcher Dr Catherine Tang So-kam.

'You find them in psychiatry, paediatrics . . . but not often in the specialties like surgery. This is a specialty in terms of prestige and financial rewards,' she said.

Out of nearly 400 surgeons, only a handful are women, according to Queen Mary Hospital surgeon and Public Doctors' Association past president, Dr Chu Kin-wah.

'We have a total of 60 surgeons . . . only three are women,' he said. 'I'd say there are fewer than 10 female surgeons in Hong Kong.' But fellow Queen Mary surgeon Judy Ho Wai-chu said more were on the way.

'In my own department, I see more female trainees every year,' she said.

She cited the long training and inflexible working hours as the major obstacle. Women also needed to choose whether they wanted to pursue promotion.