Female surgeons

     Is surgery for men and nursery for women? Could a female have a successful career as a surgeon? Should you, as a patient, choose a male surgeon to increase your chances to fight disease?

     The surgical field has been dominated by men from the start, especially with women having their right for education being refused in the early days. Even more, an image with a male surgeon often pops into our heads when we think about it or hear about surgical procedures in general. Nowadays, more females seem to follow a career in the medical field and also in surgery with gender bias still being an issue encountered at many levels. Several studies have approached it and I will write shortly about a few of them, hoping this post will encourage other female colleagues to work hard at becoming not an excellent female surgeon, but an excellent surgeon.

     Starting with the residency program, a study has shown that there is a sex-based difference regarding the autonomy granted to trainees in general surgery, being more accentuated in the 4th year of training. “Even after controlling for potential confounding factors, including level of training, intrinsic procedural difficulty, patient-related case complexity, faculty sex, and training program environment, female residents still received less operative autonomy than their male counterparts. This gender gap may affect female residents’ experience in training and possibly their preparation for practice.” Also, a study showed that tolerance of surgeon behaviors inclined to be more critical of female surgeons than males from operative personnel.

     Female surgeons are less represented in leadership positions compared to male surgeons even if the number of female surgeons has increased over the years. Regarding industry payment in orthopedic surgery, a study showed there is a gap income, with a chance of getting a lower payment for the same work when compared to their male counterparts.

    Regarding authorship, female tend to be co-authors as the first and last positions of authorship is mainly male dominated. Women are also highly underrepresented as authors of single-authored papers. The role of gender in scholarly authorship is dominated by males even in cases of a gender mixed team of 2 authors with equal contributions. A good news comes from a study scanning the Urological field, showing an increase in female authorship over the last 35 years.

     Even if medical practice patterns may vary among surgeons, studies have shown no gender difference regarding rates of inpatient mortality, postoperative complications and hospital stay. Gender is not performance related but hard work, talent and skills are. Make your choices without gender bias and support your community to do so! 


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