Shocking figures reveal gender gap in surgery with women making up just 11% of surgeons

  • Statistics show a measly 8% increase of female surgeons in the past 15 years 

It has been revealed that just 11% of surgeons are female despite surgery being one of the most important medical procedures offered worldwide.

Iin the UK alone, surgeons carry out more than 1.7m treatments each year. So why is there such a noticeable gender gap in this field of work?

Historically, the slower rise has been put down to the challenging and demanding nature of the job, suggesting that women prefer to direct their ambition towards a career they believe they will succeed in. This could be a result of lack in female surgical role models.

Dr Umarah Muhammad (Academic lead for Liverpool University ENT Society) said: “I do think it is a blend of things, of course it is a male-dominated field but one of the most commonly cited reasons is due to lack of female role models.”  

According to UCAS, figures show that women outnumber men when applying for medicine and dentistry degrees with 58% of students being female in 2016. This does not, however, translate to careers in surgery – more so, consultant roles.

Maria Khan, final year medical student at the University of Liverpool, said: “Some cultures believe that women should be more family orientated and therefore, don’t think women’s careers unfortunately matter as much as men’s. Coming from a South Asian culture myself, I’ve experienced it where, medical students think the only thing they can become is a general practitioner.”

In terms of cosmetic surgery, more than a quarter of those considering a procedure have a gender preference, being female. One per cent of those in the study requested a male surgeon.

Dr Muhammad said: “It’s surprising that, that in itself isn’t a reason to drive more females into the surgical workforce. If you look at cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, the majority of patients are female, but there are more male surgeons.”

New schemes are being introduced to encourage women on into surgical careers, and the academic curriculum is ever-changing. The Royal College of Surgeons founded Women in Surgery in 2007 to raise the profile of women surgeons and to work towards an understanding of the issues faced in that role. They have since held national conferences along with workshops for school students to introduce a career in surgery to young girls.