Lesser Female Surgeons in the Field – study

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Based on research, there are lesser women in surgery due to many factors such as ‘male only’ groups, events that are exclusively for men, skeptic patients, and unsuitability for family life.

The authors of BMJ Open report that they surveyed on both a Facebook group and Twitter for women of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland in October 2017. There were 81 participants who covered all levels of training, more than 80% said they felt surgery was a male-dominated field, about 50% cited trauma and orthopedic surgery as sexist. Overall, the percentage of participants that said they had experienced sexism is 59%.

About 30% said the profession was an unlikely life for a family or motherhood while more than 10% said it felt like an “old boys’ club”. The same percentage agreed to childcare issues while others voted for unsocial working hours as barriers.

“There is a culture that basically discourages females to pursue this career,” said Dr. Maria Irene Bellini of Imperial College, London who was the first author of this sort of study. “I strongly believe that you cannot be what you cannot see,” she said.

One participant wrote, “I got told by another surgeon that he left vascular surgery for plastics because there were ‘too many women surgeons and they caused too much drama’”. Another participant commented, “Patients don’t think women can be doctors, let alone surgeons.”

There is much to be done to encourage women to become surgeons and stop sexism in the workplace such as mentoring, having structural changes, and tackling sexist behaviors. Many people are wary of women surgeons because they don’t think women are good enough or that the job is mainly for men. Having that unconscious bias is making women second guess themselves before studying surgery or pursuing the profession.

Training and more versatile career paths are important, and that’s what the participants said when asked by the team on what changes could be made to keep women in the field. Though,  a lot of the respondents said that current versatile pathways are being despised.