Women in academic surgery: the pipeline is busted

J Surg Educ. 2012 Jan-Feb;69(1):84-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2011.07.008. Epub 2011 Sep 3.


Purpose: This investigation examined the trends for gender-based advancement in academic surgery by performing a comparative analysis of the rate of change in the percentage of medical students, surgery residents, and full professors of surgery who are women.

Methods: All available Women in Medicine Annual Reports were obtained from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The gender compositions of medical graduates, surgery residents, and full professors were plotted. Binomial and linear trendlines were calculated to estimate the year when 50% of surgery full professors would be women. Additionally, the percentage distribution of men and women at each professorial rank was determined from 1995 to 2009 using these reports to demonstrate the rate of academic advancement of each gender.

Results: The slope of the line of increase for women full professors is significantly less than for female medical students and for female general surgery residents (0.36, compared with 0.75 and 0.99, respectively). This predicts that the earliest time that females will account for 50% of full professors in surgery is the year 2096. When comparing women and men in academic ranks, we find that women are much less likely than men to be full professors.

Conclusions: The percentage of full professors in surgery who are women is increasing at a rate disproportionately slower than the increases in female medical students and surgery residents. The rates of increase in female medical students and surgery residents are similar. The disproportionately slow rate of increase in the number of female full professors suggests that multiple factors may be responsible for this discrepancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Faculty, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians, Women / trends*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States