Perceptions of gender-based discrimination during surgical training and practice

Med Educ Online. 2015 Feb 3;20:25923. doi: 10.3402/meo.v20.25923. eCollection 2015.


Background: Women represent 15% of practicing general surgeons. Gender-based discrimination has been implicated as discouraging women from surgery. We sought to determine women's perceptions of gender-based discrimination in the surgical training and working environment.

Methods: Following IRB approval, we fielded a pilot survey measuring perceptions and impact of gender-based discrimination in medical school, residency training, and surgical practice. It was sent electronically to 1,065 individual members of the Association of Women Surgeons.

Results: We received 334 responses from medical students, residents, and practicing physicians with a response rate of 31%. Eighty-seven percent experienced gender-based discrimination in medical school, 88% in residency, and 91% in practice. Perceived sources of gender-based discrimination included superiors, physician peers, clinical support staff, and patients, with 40% emanating from women and 60% from men.

Conclusions: The majority of responses indicated perceived gender-based discrimination during medical school, residency, and practice. Gender-based discrimination comes from both sexes and has a significant impact on women surgeons.

Keywords: gender discrimination; sexual harassment; surgery; women; women in medicine; work discrimination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Schools, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / education*