Thesis (Ph.D)

Public health women doctors in England 1965 to 1991: "A perfect place for strategic butterflies"


This thesis contributes to the historiography of women in medicine by exploring, in-depth, one small specialty, public health, which, from 1974, offered women doctors working within it equality of opportunity with men for career development. At that time, most women doctors working in the English health service were relegated to junior or support roles, their particular needs for family-friendly working environments being largely ignored. This research examines the reasons behind the development of these equal opportunities and the subsequent rapid trajectory of women doctors in public health, comparing it with the much slower progress made by female colleagues in hospital medicine and general practice. In considering the factors helping or hindering women’s advance in medicine from 1974, it proposes that these changes occurred in public health because the specialty was not tied to the pyramidal model of medicine, developed in the 1930s by senior male doctors for male doctors, which dominated other specialties and which stifled progress. An innovative feature of this research, following women’s entry to consultant and training posts in proportions equal to men in public health, is to highlight their subsequent move into major strategic roles within the health service management structure from the late 1980s. Interviews with senior public health men and women doctors help shed light on how this move was achieved and how women in strategic positions were able to combine high profile careers with domestic responsibilities. Also includes five transcipts of interviews : The five interviewees, whose career stories are presented here - Professor Sian Griffiths, Professor Sheila Adam, Professor Mala Rao, Dr Sue Atkinson and Professor Fiona Sim - were selected, with the help of the Faculty of Public Health, for their considerable achievement in strategic leadership roles in public health practice, whether in leading complex organisation, chairing national policy committees, leading international work, promoting education and development.

Attached files


Wright, J


Year: 2016

© Wright, J
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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