Gender Disparity in Trauma Surgery: Compensation, Practice Patterns, Personal Life, and Wellness

J Surg Res. 2020 Jun;250:179-187. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2019.12.048. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Background: We sought to understand differences in surgical practice, compensation, personal life, and health and wellness between male and female trauma surgeons.

Methods: An electronic survey study of members of The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma was carried out. Using univariate and bivariate analyses, we compared the differences in surgical practice, compensation, family life, and health status among female and male trauma surgeons and used chi-squared tests for categorical variables. Analyses were performed using SPSS (Version 25, IBM).

Results: The overall response rate was 37.4%. Women reported working more than 80 h a week more commonly (30% versus 23%; P < 0.001), yet reported lower incomes, with 57% of female surgeons reporting before-tax incomes of $300,000 or higher, compared with 83% of male surgeons (P < 0.001). These differences persisted when adjusting for academic versus nonacademic practices. Gender-based salary disparity remained significant when adjusting for the age of the respondent. Divorce rates and never married status were significantly higher for women (9% versus 4%; P < 0.001 and 19% versus 4%; P < 0.001, respectively). Women surgeons also report higher rates of not having children compared with male surgeons (48% versus 13%; P < 0.001). There were no major age-adjusted health status differences reported between male and female surgeons.

Conclusions: This study highlights contemporary disparities in salaries, practice, and family life between male and female trauma surgeons. Overall, trauma surgeons do not report gender-based differences in health and wellness metrics but have ongoing disparity in compensation and family life.

Keywords: Female surgeons; Gender disparity; Glass ceiling; Physician health status; Trauma surgeons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Women / economics
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Societies, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Surgeons / economics
  • Surgeons / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery