Women surgeons in the new millennium

Arch Surg. 2009 Jul;144(7):635-42. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2009.120.


Background: Women are increasingly entering the surgical profession.

Objective: To assess professional and personal/family life situations, perceptions, and challenges for women vs men surgeons.

Design: National survey of American Board of Surgery-certified surgeons.

Participants: A questionnaire was mailed to all women and men surgeons who were board certified in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or 2004. Of 3507 surgeons, 895 (25.5%) responded. Among these, 178 (20.3%) were women and 698 (79.7%) were men.

Results: Most women and men surgeons would choose their profession again (women, 82.5%; men, 77.5%; P = .15). On multivariate analysis, men surgeons (odds ratio [OR], 2.5) and surgeons of a younger generation (certified in 2000 or 2004; OR, 1.3) were less likely to favor part-time work opportunities for surgeons. Most of the surgeons were married (75.6% of women vs 91.7% of men, P < .001). On multivariate analysis, women surgeons (OR, 5.0) and surgeons of a younger generation (OR, 1.9) were less likely to have children. More women than men surgeons had their first child later in life, while already in surgical practice (62.4% vs 32.0%, P < .001). The spouse was the offspring's primary caretaker for 26.9% of women surgeons vs 79.4% of men surgeons (P < .001). More women surgeons than men surgeons thought that maternity leave was important (67.8% vs 30.8%, P < .001) and that child care should be available at work (86.5% vs 69.7%, P < .001).

Conclusions: Women considering a surgical career should be aware that most women surgeons would choose their profession again. Strategies to maximize recruitment and retention of women surgeons should include serious consideration of alternative work schedules and optimization of maternity leave and child care opportunities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Career Choice*
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Day Care Centers / organization & administration
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family
  • Female
  • General Surgery* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parental Leave
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Physicians, Women* / psychology
  • Physicians, Women* / statistics & numerical data
  • Workforce