Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Barriers to becoming a female surgeon and the influence of female surgical role models
  1. Hui-Ling Kerr1,
  2. Lesley Ann Armstrong2,
  3. Jennifer Ellen Cade3
  1. 1Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic, Cheltenham General Hospital, Cheltenham, UK
  3. 3Department of Anaesthetics, Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lesley Ann Armstrong, Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic, Cheltenham General Hospital, Flat 4 Douglas House, Parabola Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3AH, UK; lesley.armstrong{at}


Objectives We aim to investigate the reasons that medical students and junior doctors who are women are less likely to pursue a career in surgery compared with their male counterparts.

Methods An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to female final year medical students and female junior doctors in two UK hospitals between August and September 2012. Topics included career choice, attitudes to surgery, recognition of female surgical role models and perceived sexual discrimination.

Results 50 medical students and 50 junior doctors were given our survey. We received a 96% response rate; 46 medical students and 50 junior doctors. 6/50 (12%) junior doctors planned a career in surgery compared with 14/46 (30%) medical students. ‘Work-life balance’ was the main reason cited for not wishing to pursue surgery (29/46 (63%) medical students and 25/50 (50%) junior doctors). 28/46 (61%) medical students and 28/50 (56%) junior doctors had encountered a female surgical role model; only five students and two junior doctors felt that these were influential in their career decision. Of those who had not, approximately 40% in each group felt that if they had, they may have considered surgery. Approximately 30% in each group had encountered female surgeons that had dissuaded them from a surgical career.

Conclusions Work-life balance is still cited by female junior doctors as being the main deterrent to a surgical career. The paucity of female role models and some perceived sexual discrimination may cause female doctors to discount surgery as a career.


Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Editorial
    Fiona E Karet Frankl