Gender differences emerge during surgical training

We recently presented a paper of our latest research into the experiences of UK male and female surgical trainees at the BPS conference (Division of Organisational Psychology) in Brighton.

Our analysis shows that male and female trainees show very few differences when they first embark on training (in terms of perceptions of fitting in with surgeons, identification with surgeons and a desire to pursue another occupation). However, over time, women come to report less favourable levels of these variables than their male colleagues. This supports our claims that the very masculine surgical environment may subtly harm women’s motivations to pursue a career in surgery.

We also found that women felt that they are performing more poorly than their male colleagues; importantly, the objective data that we collected shows that this is not correct. In other words, women progress through their training just as fast as men do, and perform just as well.

You can find more information about our research here:

2 thoughts on “Gender differences emerge during surgical training

  1. I think casual sexism is a huge factor in this. I was asked last week (whilst operating- a Whipple’s no less) by a male colleague “what can we do about the problem of feminization of surgery and the problem of women trainees in surgery who want part time working?. At the same operation a medical student said she didn’t think surgery was for her as “it isn’t a job for a woman”, whilst I was there. My boss and another consultant both said nothing, I was raging and I’ve been doing this more than 10 years and encounter it every day and yet I take it lying down; because of course I was desperate to do some of the operation and didn’t want to seem like a stroppy cow. It’s terrible.

  2. The research suggests that you are absolutely right; subtle forms of sexism are prevalent in many workplaces and can be expressed by men as well as women. Because they are subtle, they are hard to respond to – people who do challenge these kinds of comments are often accused of lacking a sense of humour or being too sensitive, which reinforces a code of silence around these discriminatory issues.

    You’ll find an interesting commentary on these kinds of issues here:

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