CardiologyClinical FeaturesWomen’s Health

Irish Women in Cardiology Survey

A report from the Irish women in cardiology survey, exploring Europe’s largest gender gap in cardiology

In the Republic of Ireland (ROI), 8% of public cardiology consultants are female; the lowest proportion in Europe, despite more females entering the medical workforce. The Medical Workforce Report 2020–211 stated that cardiology had the lowest female consultant ratio of any medical sub-speciality.1 Although, Northern Ireland (NI) is part of the UK, NI and ROI share an ‘all island’ professional society called the Irish Cardiac Society (ICS). Although there are currently no data as to the female consultant ratios in NI, it is likely similar to both the UK (13% female consultants2) and ROI.

Several publications examining the gender gap in cardiology globally2–5 have aimed to find solutions to improve gender discrepancy. Although Ireland ranks in the top 10 most genderequal countries in the world, with almost gender parity on educational attainment (99.8%) and Health and Survival (96.4%),6 this does not translate into cardiology. We sought to understand the perceptions of Irish trainees and consultants on aspects of working in cardiology to identify areas that can target this disparity.


University College Dublin research ethics committee approved this study. A questionnaire was created and adapted from previous studies assessing the reasons for gender discrepancies in cardiology.2–4,7

Irish Cardiac Society, distributed the survey to all cardiology trainees and consultants through its mailing list.

Descriptive and frequency analyses were used for demographic data. Comparisons between groups were conducted using independent samples t-tests or Mann–Whitney U tests. X2 tests were used to analyse gender response differences. Phi coefficient was used for assessing the effect size of X2 associations, with an effect value of 0.1 = small effect, 0.3 = moderate effect, 0.5 = large effect size. Two-sided P-values <0.05 were considered statistically significant. Themes for free text box answers were collated. Only one theme per participant response was allocated to ensure equal representation.


There were 94 respondents with a response rate of 30%. Females made up 47 (50%) of respondents. A total of 54% were married, however, females were more likely to be single compared with their male counterparts (36% vs. 17%, P < 0.05). Females also reported higher levels of childcare responsibilities, with 19% providing >70% of the childcare duties, vs. 5% of males reporting to provide >70% of the childcare duties (P < 0.05, phi = 0.42).

Despite only one person (1%) reporting working less than full time (LTFT), the majority (53%) of the respondents said they would consider working LTFT, given the opportunity. The main reasons were more time with family, better work–life balance, and burnout. However, almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents felt their departments would not accommodate LTFT cardiologists.

A variety of sub-specialty fields within cardiology were represented including interventional cardiology (30%), imaging (20%), heart failure (13%), electrophysiology (12%), and general cardiology (16%). Of note, males were twice as likely (28% vs. 14%, P-value <0.05, phi = 0.29) to choose specialities involving higher radiation exposure, such as intervention or electrophysiology.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents reported having experienced bullying, regardless of gender (females 53%, males 43%) or seniority. Consultants accounted for 60% of bullies. Only 1 in 2 respondents reported bullying to seniors (53%), and 46%, felt a lack of reporting system.

A total of 79% of females reported experiencing sexism, compared with 15% of males (P < 0.001, phi = 0.65). There was a significant difference (P = 0.001, phi = 0.40) in females (30%) compared with males (2%) reporting, missed opportunities for professional advancement based on their gender. Most females (85%) felt that training in cardiology was harder for female trainees, and this view was shared by 53% of male respondents. Themes included: sexism (19%), maternity difficulties (19%), childcare commitments (19%), cardiology being perceived as a male-dominated speciality (14%), and a lack of work flexibility (13%) as key reasons. Figure 1 demonstrates that females report that their career prospects were significantly lower than males, whereas males reported that career prospects were the same. Overall, 70% of respondents, felt that cardiology would benefit from more female representation and having a mentor through their cardiology training (females = 91%, males = 54%).


Irish female cardiology trainees and consultants report having experienced sexism (79%), bullying (53%), and a perceived lack of career advancement based on gender (30%). There are some similarities to the current study with the British Junior Cardiology Association (BJCA) report.2,8 This includes the significant gender difference in those pursuing procedural, high radiation, sub-specialities such as intervention or electrophysiology. In the UK, 9.4% of female trainees2 and 48% of female consultants7 experienced or witnessed sexism. This is lower than the 79% reported here, and additionally, this all-Ireland survey, asked respondents only if they themselves had experience sexism, and not if it had been witnessed, which would likely lead to a much higher reported rate.

Despite rates of bullying in the UK being significantly lower (11% vs. 48%) consultants were the majority of perpetrators in both studies.8

In the UK, 9% of cardiology consultants and 6% of trainees work LTFT.9 In Ireland, to date there has been only one job share between two trainees since the inception of the cardiology training scheme in 1994 and the number of LTFT consultant cardiologists is <1%. This lack of flexibility in training creates an adverse environment for Irish Cardiologists, especially for women due to childcare responsibilities.

Despite a higher proportion of female cardiology trainees than ever before, a recent study demonstrated that gender parity in cardiology would not be reached in the next 50 years at this current rate.10 However, progress in Ireland could be faster given the national gender parity in other domains,6 which potentially allows restructuring of available resources and policies from non-medical fields. Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that current national gender parity and its relationship with equality in cardiology is not straightforward, and indeed may have an inverse relationship. Recent work performed by the Pink International Young Academy of Cardiology group demonstrated that in Europe, countries with the most national gender parity had the worst representation of female leaders in cardiology.5 Conversely, Russia and Morocco who have the most female cardiology leaders, have the worst parity in gender nationally.

There are some limitations to this study. Firstly, there was participation bias with 50% female response rate, which is a higher representation than their proportion amongst Irish cardiologists. This bias is difficult to address, as the theme of this survey would appeal to women and those who have been affected by discrimination, making them more likely to partake. There was, however, under representation of males and consultants. Despite this, almost all female cardiology trainees and consultants in ROI/NI completed this survey, suggesting rates of sexism, bullying, and perception of lack of career advancement is a true reflection of female Irish cardiologists. Even though this survey had a good response rate of 30%, compared with other gender-based cardiology surveys (response rates 20–23%),4,7 it is unlikely to represent the experience of all cardiology trainees or consultants. Finally, another element that was not captured in this survey but has been well documented is salary discrepancies between sexes3,11 as well as sexual harassment.7

Programme directors in the USA have implemented strategies to promote gender diversity within their programmes.12 This includes implicit bias education, prioritizing diversity and equity in developing the match and interview process, and highlighting diversity initiatives in institutions. Some of these strategies could be adopted in Ireland. A fundamental gap highlighted in this survey is the lack of support structure to report discrimination, bullying, and harassment, without the fear of retaliation or stigmatization. This can be challenging, as each hospital human resources department, have different systems for reporting, none of which are anonymised and often do not result in any repercussions to the perpetrator. To target this, changing system-wide policies is needed. These policies should also prioritize systems and facilities to institute family friendly work environments which are already in place in non-medical fields in Ireland. Finally, improving women in leadership roles and mentorship of trainees is critical.

Following on from this survey, Irish Women in Cardiology (WiC) have collaborated with BJCA WiC group and have set up a formalized mentorship programme. Currently, this has enrolled junior doctors, but we aim to extend recruitment to medical schools and subsequently secondary schools to target younger females who have yet to decide on a career. A step in improving equity in leadership positions has already started with a female consultant now sitting on the 10-person selection panel for ROI cardiology specialist training interviews and there is now an equal representation of female council members in ICS for the first time.

In conclusion, this study solidifies themes surrounding why women do not pursue a career in cardiology and presents real-life data on difficulties experienced in day-to-day clinical practice. This includes sexism, bullying, lack of flexible training, maternity, and childcare responsibilities as well as a ‘boys club’ environment that creates a glass ceiling.

References available on request

Written by: Bethany Wong, Alice Brennan, Department of Cardiology, Golden Jubilee Hospital, Glasgow; Stephanie James, Department of Cardiovascular Imaging, Beacon Hospital, Dublin; Lisa Brandon, Department of Cardiology, St James Hospital, Dublin; Deepti Ranganathan, Department of Cardiology, Mater Misercordiae Hospital, Dublin; Barbra Dalton, Irish Cardiac Society; Ken McDonald, School of Medicine, University College Dublin; Deirdre Ward, Department of Cardiology, Tallaght Hospital, Dublin

Lead author: Dr Bethany Wong is currently a Cardiology Specialist Registrar, a PhD candidate at University College Dublin and an Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) fellow. She is a founding member of the Irish Women in Cardiology subgroup of the ICS. Through this, she has helped to set up a formalized mentorship programme for junior doctors, as well as fundraise for educational and networking events to improve gender equality in Irish Cardiology.

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