Women in Surgery – International Women’s Day 2019

Written by Ioanna Dimasi MBBS, MSc

Women face discrimination and obstacles when pursuing a career, specifically in male dominated jobs such as surgery.  The reasons why women might not choose a surgical specialty in the first place or make the conscious decision to drop out (Forel et al., 2018), is multifactorial in origin. There are many additional obstacles women have to face compared to their male colleagues. Starting with the more obvious societal stereotypical pressures to being the recipients of sexism and abuse in their workplace (Wirtzfeld, 2009). In a lot of cultures women are expected to stay at home or do a job that will allow them to care for their children, however, a surgical job is demanding, with long operating hours and on calls. Women do not get enough support; from home and/or work, and frequently resort to quitting.

Moreover, women are expected to be childbearing at some point during their careers, which results in them having to take time out of their training or their work, which can delay or hinder their progression. Women in surgery also tend to be perceived as less competent compared to the their male colleagues. Despite this, research has shown that if women are given equal opportunities and support they can be as successful in surgical training (Thomas, 2006) (Pico et al., 2010).

Many things need to change in order to see a shift in the number of women that pursue a surgical specialty and those that remain within it. In order to achieve this we need to:

I   “Identify” the reasons why women are facing these obstacles

N  “Necessitate” taking actions towards changing these problems

C   “Cultivate” an environment where women can feel safe and can equally reach their potential

I    “Indicate” different ways we can achieve these changes

S   “Support” women through their surgical pathway

I    “I” Change starts with ourselves. We need to make it our problem

O  “Offer” our help to all women and especially the ones that struggle the most

N   “Nurture” confidence in women

InciSion will continue to support all females globally that are striving to pursue a career in surgery or those that are already in training. We stand by your side every step of the way. Our purpose is to ensure equal opportunities are given to women in surgery. Supporting them in their pursuits and equipping them with leadership skills in order to deal with the difficulties and pressures they face in their working environment. There are a lot of female surgical role models and in the recent years women in surgery are coming together to show to their female junior colleagues that they have a support network. By working and empowering women, we aim to achieve equality within our operating theatres.

 

References:

FOREL, D., VANDEPEER, M., DUNCAN, J., TIVEY, D. R. & TOBIN, S. A. 2018. Leaving surgical training: some of the reasons are in surgery. ANZ journal of surgery, 88, 402-407.

PICO, K., GIOE, T. J., VANHEEST, A. & TATMAN, P. J. 2010. Do men outperform women during orthopaedic residency training? Clin Orthop Relat Res, 468, 1804-8.

THOMAS, W. E. 2006. Teaching and assessing surgical competence. Ann R Coll Surg Engl, 88, 429-32.

WIRTZFELD, D. A. 2009. The history of women in surgery. Can J Surg, 52, 317-320.

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