Women surgeons: How can we shape the future of new leaders? A celebration of the past with a glimpse of the future

Surgery. 2022 Aug;172(2):633-638. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2022.03.010. Epub 2022 Apr 9.


Background: Sporadic women involvement in surgery has been recorded since ancient times. Nevertheless, the presence of women in surgical disciplines has been marginal until the last 2 decades, with several barriers still existing worldwide. The aim of the study was to explore the history of women in surgery, with a main focus in North America from until the foundation women surgical societies.

Methods: Database search of studies about the history of women in surgery.

Results: The 19th century registered an increased presence of women in medicine; during the 20th century, pioneer women surgeons opened the way to a more consistent involvement of women in surgical specialties. In the last 20 years, increased awareness of barriers limiting women progression in surgical career led to the development of women's surgical societies, with the aim to share common experiences and find solutions to common issues.

Conclusion: The history of women in surgery has been paved with challenges: during the last centuries, several barriers limited the inclusion of women in surgical fields, from training to leadership positions. Nevertheless, some pioneers actually broke the rules imposed by a male-dominated field and opened the way to a more diverse and equal future for women surgeons. Nowadays, the existence of women's surgical societies in different countries and their interconnection represents a way to support women surgeons at different stages of their career.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women*
  • Specialties, Surgical*
  • Surgeons*