The impact of gender on the choice of surgery as a career

Am J Surg. 1996 Oct;172(4):373-6. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9610(96)00185-7.


Background: The objective of the survey was to examine factors affecting career choice by medical students.

Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to the 245 fourth-year students at the University of Toronto, sampling qualities of importance in specialties, the importance of role models, attitudes toward surgery, and specialty match results.

Results: There was a 69% return rate. Males were more likely to choose a surgical career than were females (27% versus 10%, respectively; P = 0.01). Males were more likely to identify technical challenge, earning potential, and prestige (P < 0.01) whereas females were more likely to identify residency conditions, part-time work, and parental leave availability as important qualities in a specialty (P < 0.01). Females were less likely to take surgical electives (P < 0.001) and more likely to identify a lack of role models (P < 0.003). Students agreed that surgeons have rewarding careers (79%) and earn more (64%); however, they do not agree that surgeons enjoy spending time with patients (10%) or have rewarding family lives (5%).

Conclusions: Fewer females than males were found to consider or choose a surgical career, possibly due to differences in qualities of importance in specialties, availability of role models, and exposure through electives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Career Choice*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Mentors
  • Motivation
  • Ontario
  • Physicians, Women
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires