Gender-related perceptions of careers in surgery among new medical graduates: results of a cross-sectional study

Am J Surg. 2013 Jul;206(1):112-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2012.04.009. Epub 2012 Aug 14.


Background: Despite promotional measures at a national level, female surgeons account for only 10% of the consultant workforce in the United Kingdom. With rising proportions of female medical graduates, it is important that surgery continues to recruit the most able candidates regardless of sex. This study investigates the differing perceptions of surgical careers among recent medical school graduates and identifies factors discouraging female doctors from pursuing a career in surgery.

Methods: Newly qualified graduates from the University of Nottingham Medical School, Nottingham, UK, were invited to complete a nonmandatory questionnaire investigating career intentions and factors influencing this.

Results: Two hundred and eight questionnaires were returned (a 66% response rate). Male respondents were significantly more likely to rate surgery as an attractive or very attractive career (P = .0116). Overall, only 33 (25%) female doctors expressed interest in a surgical career as opposed to 33 (42%) male doctors (P = .010). Frequently cited reasons included no interest in surgery itself (21%) and negative attitudes toward women in surgery among the surgical teams (18%). Irrespective of career interests, 59% of male and 68% of female respondents believed surgery was not a career welcoming women (P = .186). Reasons included difficulty maintaining family life, limited flexible training, and lack of role models.

Conclusions: This study identifies significant sex differences in the perception of surgical careers. The majority believes surgery does not welcome female trainees. Future strategies to promote surgery must address attitudes and behaviors in both sexes while taking active steps to support female surgeons during their training and in the workplace.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Career Choice*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women* / psychology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • United States