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Why female junior doctors don’t want to be surgeons

Women are put off specialising in surgery because of concerns for a work-life balance.
Female surgeons at work

Female junior doctors have said work-life balance issues fuel their continued reluctance to choose careers in surgery.

Although there are more female medical students 63% only 10.5% of consultant surgeons are women.

To uncover the reasons behind this reluctance to choose surgery a survey was conducted at two UK hospitals. The small study involving 46 female medical students and 50 female junior doctors.

Work-life balance issues were cited as the main barrier by 29 of the medical students and 25 of the junior doctors.

The women were also questioned about whether they had had a female surgeon role model. It was found that while 28 of the medical students and a further 28 of the junior doctors had had a female role model, only five students and two junior doctors said it had

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Female junior doctors have said work-life balance issues fuel their continued reluctance to choose careers in surgery.

Female surgeons at work
Female surgeons at work. Photo: Getty Images

Although there are more female medical students – 63% – only 10.5% of consultant surgeons are women.

To uncover the reasons behind this reluctance to choose surgery a survey was conducted at two UK hospitals. The small study involving 46 female medical students and 50 female junior doctors. 

Work-life balance issues were cited as the main barrier by 29 of the medical students and 25 of the junior doctors.

The women were also questioned about whether they had had a female surgeon role model. It was found that while 28 of the medical students and a further 28 of the junior doctors had had a female role model, only five students and two junior doctors said it had influenced their career choice.

The authors concluded that while work-life balance was the principal barrier, the dearth of female role models and perceptions of sexual discrimination also played a part. 

In an editorial linked to the report Professor Fiona Karet Frankl of the University of Cambridge commented: ‘there is no single factor that if fixed would make gender imbalance disappear’ but stressed the importance of ‘senior male engagement with trying to effect cultural change’.

She added that increased flexibility and job share schemes could help address the problem in future.

HL Kerr et al (2016) Barriers to becoming a female surgeon and the influence to female surgical role models. Postgraduate Medical Journal. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2015-133273

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