‘It’s from the top down’: Inside Glasgow Uni Medical School’s ‘culture of misogyny’

‘I got told by a male senior lecturer I should be doing a secretarial course’

Last week a senior academic at Glasgow University resigned from his position due to a “culture of misogyny” festering in the Medical School. The resignation comes in the wake of criticism of the head of undergraduate medicine at the university, Professor John Paul Leach, when screenshots appeared last month revealing lecture slides used by him from 2017 which labelled parts of the female brain as “gold-digging sensory”, “toilet cleaning” and “gossip control centre”.

Students in the Medical School suggest the issue of misogyny runs deeper within the department. The Glasgow Tab spoke to numerous current female medical students to understand the reality of life for female medics at Glasgow University’s Medical School – they all wished to remain anonymous. One said this was because there is a “culture of hushing students from speaking to the press” and feared the ramifications of speaking to The Glasgow Tab.

One female student told The Glasgow Tab: “Gender disparity in the medical school has been a longstanding issue. People who try to address it just get hushed.”

Another student told of her direct experience with misogyny, alleging she was told by a male senior lecturer she should be doing a “correspondence course”, to become a “secretary” instead of medicine.

Dr James Going had been an academic at the Glasgow University Medical school for over 30 years until his resignation last week when he spoke out against the existence and treatment of misogyny in the school.

In an open letter to Principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, he said: “I no longer care to be associated with the university.”

Dr Going, an Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at Glasgow University Medical School later suggested that people have been turning a blind eye to discriminatory behaviour for a long time, adding: “I and others have been waiting for evidence that people with authority in the university have the will and the backbone to do something effective about it.”

He implied the university’s reluctance to take action in the situation has been an attempt to stop muddying the name of the institution. “Surely it cannot be true that people in positions of authority in the University are more concerned to protect what they imagine to be its good name, than with justice,” he said.

Glasgow University said it “condemns discrimination of any kind” and said Dr Going’s honorary professorship had already ended last year.

A female medical student told us whilst she didn’t know Dr Going personally, she believed it was the right stance to take and that “someone really should have said something earlier”. She claimed: “People at the top are complicit in this and everyone below who wants to speak up don’t dare to.”

Back in September an image from a historic lecture given by Professor John Paul Leach’s in 2017 surfaced where he presented an image of “the female brain” containing sections labelled “shoes”, “headache generator” and “gold digging sensory”.

“In 2017 I apologised personally and unreservedly for its use and for any harm caused and I do the same today,” Leach said last month.

A student taught by Professor Leach this year claimed the only form of acknowledgement this issue received in class last month after the images circulated online was a brief statement at the beginning of a lecture. They said Professor Leach told his class the slides had been taken out of context and “it has been resolved” before moving on with the lecture.

Another female student claims a senior academic in the medical school had warned another female student against publishing her study on how gender affects studying medicine in a journal due to the way it criticised Glasgow Medical School.

A female student argued the culture comes “from the top down.”

“They don’t care for medical students and their voices, let alone the voices of  colleagues and anybody raising issues.

“Raise an issue with misogyny and you’re ignored by anyone more senior than the lecturer you raise it with. Don’t expect anything more than a slap on the wrist to whichever person has been reported.”

Some fear that issues with gender discrimination are prevalent in the field of medicine as a whole and these rumours of misogynistic behaviour within the Medical School are a stark reminder of the gender disparities they are bound to be exposed to throughout their careers. The statistics are frightening with the British Medical Association reporting that in the UK nine in ten female doctors have experienced some from of sexism at work. However, discriminatory behaviour from senior male academics so early in their career threatens to discourage young female medics from feeling valued in the medical field.

The university commissioned an independent review of the school in January to uncover gender discrimination and bullying directed towards female academics “committed disproportionately by men against women”.

As the enquiry is still ongoing, staff and students at the university are left feeling uneasy. Whilst light is beginning to be shed on some cases of misogyny in the school, it appears this is a problem that is known and deep-rooted in the department. Eyes are sure to be on the medical school as this report is released in the coming weeks.

A Glasgow University spokesperson said: “The University of Glasgow condemns discrimination of any kind and is committed to promoting equality and diversity across its community and campus. The University treats all complaints seriously, investigates appropriately, and addresses all recommendations arising. We do not comment on individual cases.”

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