Women doctors will outnumber their male colleagues in Britain within six years, experts say.
Figures from medical schools show that while the number of men entering medicine has doubled in the past four decades, female recruits have risen ten-fold.
This means they are in the majority across medical schools, with acceptance rates of 56 per cent in 2010.
It is predicted women doctors will outnumber men across the profession by 2017 – and among GPs within four years.
Despite the increase in numbers, many women doctors are still not reaching the highest positions in the profession or earning the same as men, it is claimed.
The rapid increase in women doctors may be leading to ‘over-feminisation’ of medicine, critics claimed yesterday in an editorial in the British Medical Journal.
They cited under-achievement of boys at school as one reason for the sea change. However, many men turn away from medicine as they find that careers in the City, finance and IT offer more income and status.
Professor Jane Dacre, medical school director at University College London, said at present 28 per cent of consultants are female, but the eventual promotion of trainees from 2007 will increase that to 55 per cent.
'Feminisation is a fact,’ she said. ‘There is a tsunami of women coming through.’
However, Professor Dacre denied that medicine was becoming over-feminised, arguing that women are merely achieving equality.
'Although women make up the majority of the medical student population they are still under-represented at the top.
'Some of that is thought to be women not stepping up to the plate and investing the time and effort it takes to get the top jobs.’
By 2017, women doctors will be in the majority – compared with 1960 when they comprised only 24 per cent of medical school intake.
Research suggests a gender pay gap still exists in medicine. Anita Holdcroft, emeritus professor of anaesthesia at Imperial College, said although some of the discrepancy can be accounted for, up to 5 per cent is unexplained.
'Women are obviously working longer hours for less pay than men,’ she said. ‘Research shows women often feel uncomfortable in negotiations over pay. But they are doing the work.’
Professor Parveen Kumar, president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said women must ‘make themselves visible’ and apply for distinction awards that bring extra income and status.
'By and large the men will push themselves forwards,’ she said.