ANZICS board commits to targets for female representation.

Last week, the ANZICS Board committed to targets for female representation on the ANZICS Board, Committees and speakers at ANZICS-affiliated fora:

30% by 2020

40% by 2023

50% by 2026

This commitment recognises the importance of gender balance for the future thriving of our specialty, and is the culmination of sustained advocacy by the Women in Intensive Care Medicine Network.

It’s fair to say that this is a fairly modest timeframe to achieve gender parity. Speaking to ANZICS/ACCCN conference delegates, some people felt the targets were unachievable, whilst others felt they were insufficiently ambitious. But overall, it’s good to know that a doctor commencing Intensive Care Medicine training in 2019 can expected gender parity by the time they qualify.

Why targets?

Some of you may be wondering about the rationale behind targets for female representation. Currently, the ANZICS board has two female members (13% women) and an average of 16% female representation across all ANZICS committees. This compares unfavourably to 22% female FCICMs and 41% female CICM trainees (link to metrics page).

Opponents of targets tend to appeal to merit- suggesting that we should rely solely on merit-based selection processes. However, even apparently rigorous and objective selection processes are affected by unconscious gender bias in a way that routinely advantages men. For example, major studies in JAMA and Naturereport major disparity in the treatment of men and women in academic promotions, remuneration in medicine and in research grants. ‘Merit’ itself is subjective- some say even mythical. Targets are a transparent, ‘conscious’ way of countering the effect of unconscious bias.

Targets work- they have been used in government and industry to drive real change.