Women who apply for surgical training are proportionately more likely to be appointed than men, but surgery remains a male dominated profession, finds research published in the February issue of the Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons.
As more women than men qualify as doctors, surgery could be missing out on some of the best graduates, suggests the author.
The author analysed all applicants to surgical training in England and Wales over a two year period. It found that while 29% of applicants to basic surgical training were women, 31% of appointees were female, suggesting women performed better in the application process than men.
Women’s success rate was even greater in higher surgical training: in one year (2008) only 16% of applicants were women, but they made up 22% of appointees.
Author Mrs Scarlett McNally, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital and Chair of Opportunities In Surgery, said: “Surgery needs the very best doctors and this means ensuring everything is being done to encourage the widest pool of applicants.
Given that the majority of those qualifying from medical school are women, to ensure the best possible surgeons in the future it is essential that a surgical career is seen as an attractive choice to both sexes.”
The paper also found an attrition rate: the 25% of female applicants for basic surgical training dropped to 15% for higher training.
Two years of core training are followed by five to 10 years of higher specialty training, and the author speculates that the years of postgraduate training coincide with the years of childrearing, which may be a factor in dissuading female doctors from remaining in surgical training.
Surgery remains a profession dominated by men. Women account for 55% of medical school intake, but only 7% of consultant surgeons. And it’s a highly competitive profession, with only 9% of all applicants securing a training post.