Gender parity in many surgical specialties may take decades, study concludes

Equal representation for women in many medical specialties will take decades if progress continues at the current pace, according to a new study published July 29 in JAMA Surgery.

The study —  led by investigators from Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital — examined data available through the National Graduate Medical Education Census from academic years 2007 to 2018 to identify how gender inequities in 20 surgical specialties have changed and use that to predict how long it will take for the rates of women in these specialties to reach parity with the overall resident and U.S. populations.

In the study, researchers report that of the 20 largest specialty training programs in the U.S., women were underrepresented in 13, and most demonstrate a less than 1 percent increase in women trainees annually. Five specialties with the lowest female representation were otolaryngology, plastic surgery, urology, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery.

The researchers then estimated how long it will take for the rates of women in these specialties to reach gender parity.

They concluded: "For many specialties, including neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery, it will take decades to reach equal female representation."

Authors recommended several strategies to achieve gender parity, such as recognizing and rewarding mentorship; early outreach to medical students; and training to recognize implicit bias. 



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