Purpose: To portray the professional experiences of men and women in academic general surgery with specific attention to factors associated with differing academic productivity and with leaving academia.
Method: A 131-question survey was mailed to all female (1,076) and a random 2:1 sample of male (2,152) members of the American College of Surgeons in three mailings between September 1998 and March 1999. Detailed questions regarding academic rank, career aspirations, publication rate, grant funding, workload, harassment, income, marriage and parenthood were asked. A five-point Likert scale measured influences on career satisfaction. Responses from strictly academic and tenure-track surgeons were analyzed and interpreted by gender, age, and rank.
Results: Overall, 317 surgeons in academic practice (168 men, 149 women) responded, of which 150 were in tenure-track positions (86 men, 64 women). Men and women differed in academic rank, tenure status, career aspirations, and income. Women surgeons had published a median of ten articles compared with 25 articles for men (p <.001). Marriage or parenthood did not influence numbers of publications for women. Overall career satisfaction was high, but women reported feeling career advancement opportunities were not equally available to them as to their male colleagues and feeling isolation from surgical peers. Ten percent to 20% of surgeons considered leaving academia, with women assistant professors (29%) contemplating this most commonly.
Conclusion: Addressing the differences between men and women academic general surgeons is critical in fostering career development and in recruiting competitive candidates of both sexes to general surgery.