Women in academic surgery over the last four decades

Laura J. Linscheid, Emma B. Holliday, Awad Ahmed, Jeremy S. Somerson, Summer Hanson, Reshma Jagsi, Curtiland Deville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective As the number of female medical students and surgical residents increases, the increasing number of female academic surgeons has been disproportionate. The purpose of this brief report is to evaluate the AAMC data from 1969 to 2018 to compare the level of female academic faculty representation for surgical specialties over the past four decades. Design The number of women as a percentage of the total surgeons per year were recorded for each year from 1969-2018, the most recent year available. Descriptive statistics were performed. Poisson regression examined the percentage of women in each field as the outcome of interest with the year and specialty (using general surgery as a reference) as two predictor variables. Setting Data from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Participants All full-time academic faculty physicians in the specialties of obstetrics and gynecology (OB/ GYN), general surgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology (ENT), plastic surgery, plastic surgery, urology, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery and cardiothoracic surgery as per AAMC records Results The percentage of women in surgery for all specialties evaluated increased from 1969 to 2018 (OR 1.04, p<0.001). Compared with general surgery, the rate of yearly percentage change increased more slowly in neurosurgery (OR 0.84; P = .004), orthopaedic surgery (OR 0.82; P = .002), urology (OR 0.59; P < .001), and cardiothoracic surgery (OR 0.38; P < .001). There was no significant difference in the rate of yearly percentage change for plastic surgery (OR 1.01; P = .840). The rate of yearly percentage change increased more rapidly in OB/GYN (OR 2.86; P < .001), ophthalmology (OR 1.79; P < .001) and ENT (OR 1.70; P < .001). Conclusions Representation of women in academic surgery is increasing overall but is increasing more slowly in orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery and urology compared with that in general surgery. These data may be used to inform and further the discussion of how mentorship and sponsorship of female students and trainees interested in surgical careers may improve gender equity in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0243308
JournalPloS one
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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