Mentoring women in academic surgery: overcoming institutional barriers to success

J Natl Med Assoc. 2006 Sep;98(9):1542-5.


Women now comprise 50% of Caucasian matriculants to medical school; 66.6% of African Americans, 48% of Hispanics and 51.3% of Asians beginning medical school are also women. This trend is likely to continue since women now earn 57% of all undergraduate degrees, and they earn more degrees in the health professions and biological sciences than men. Black and Hispanic women now earn 66% and 60% of bachelor's degrees in their respective ethnic groups. Overall, women are concentrated at the lowest faculty ranks at medical schools, with 70% holding the rank of instructor or assistant professor. Women continue to experience difficulty with recruitment, retention, promotion and pay issues compared to men. They also experience additional gender-specific issues, including primary responsibility for rearing families and quality-of-life issues in some specialties, including most of the surgical disciplines. Clearly, there is an evolving population shift at work here; the pool of candidates for medical school faculty positions is likely to be evenly split between men and women for Caucasians, Hispanics and Asians, while the African-American pool is likely heavily weighted in favor of the women. Women are beginning to garner more Latin honors recognition at graduation as well and the definition of the "best and the brightest" is being redefined. Therefore, institutions must continue to identify the barriers that deter women from entering surgery, to develop research tools to understand how to improve the process of developing leadership skills among women and to insure a "buy-in" of their male counterparts when components of the plan are being implemented.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Asian Americans*
  • Career Mobility*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • General Surgery*
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Mentors*
  • Minority Groups*
  • Physicians, Women
  • Schools, Medical*
  • United States
  • Workforce