Women have long been under-represented in surgery, but this situation is gradually improving as more women succeed in the profession. View the statistics on women in individual specialties and surgery as a whole.
Over the years, much research has been done into women in surgery, particularly on their career choices and the reasons behind them. A summary of some of these are listed below.
Current research projects
Reasons behind women’s career choices - Exeter University collaborative project
The Psychology department at the University of Exeter in collaboration with WinS undertook research to examine reasons behind the relatively low proportion of women in surgery.
The team at Exeter found that women’s decisions to opt out of surgery are complex. It is not that women inherently lack career ambition or are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to succeed in surgery. Rather, women will direct their ambition towards careers in which they perceive they are likely to succeed. Thus, visible, successful role models are vital to encourage more women into surgery.
Women in Surgery and Exeter University blog
This blog was part of a project led by University of Exeter psychologists in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons, Scalpel and the Medical Women’s Federation. The project aimed to increase the number of women working as surgeons by challenging the perception that surgeons are, or need to be, a particular type of person.
This work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The blog is available here.
As part of International Women's Day the Women in Surgery team and Exeter University launched a video podcast to support all current and prospective surgeons.
Surgery: No longer a man’s world
In partnership with:
The work of Women in Surgery is informed by our research into the issues facing female trainees and surgeons, as well as the factors that influence their career choices and progression.
We have undertaken a number of research projects; a small proportion of these are summarised below.
Previous research projects
Career progression survey
This 2005 study surveyed successful FRCS candidates from between 1990 and 2000 and asked why they left or remained in surgery. The results showed that most people remain in the profession, but that more women than men leave, mostly for family reasons. It also found that flexible working patterns were beneficial in aiding women to stay in surgery.
The results of the survey were published in the Bulletin of The Royal College of Surgeons of England (Ann R Coll Surg Engl (Suppl) 2005; 87: 94-196)
Women and medicine, the future – the Royal College of Physicians
This report was published in June 2009 and provided a comprehensive study of women’s careers across all surgical specialties. The report highlights a number of factors affecting women’s career choice, such as the impact of role models and working hours/patterns and a general preference for more predictable work patterns and greater patient contact.
This report is available from the Royal College of Physicians.
Competition ratios for different specialties and the effect of gender and immigration status
This research showed that women applying for SpR posts were more likely to be appointed than their male counterparts. This is because they frequently do not apply unless they are very sure of their ability, whereas male applicants tend to be more confident. You can view a copy of her article here.
(SA McNally J Roy Soc Med 2008; 101:489-492).
Why do women reject surgical careers?
This research, published in the annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England in 2000, inspired much of WinS’ work with school students. It showed that many women dismiss careers in surgery before they reach medical school, but that visible possible role models can have an impact on these perceptions.
(Ann R Coll Surg Eng (Suppl) 2000; 82: 290-293)