Despite the huge increase in the number of female medical students and women doctors, the number of female surgeons is still much lower than the number of male surgeons. Figures show that female consultants account for less than 30 percent of NHS consultants and figures for surgery are particularly low, at less than 10 percent.
Why are there more male surgeons than female surgeons?
One of the major reasons why there are so many more male surgeons than female surgeons is the hours surgeons work; surgeons work very long hours and often get called in at very short notice at all hours of the day. For women with children, the lifestyle that accompanies a career as a surgeon is extremely difficult to balance with a family and this may put many women doctors off. Another reason is the amount of training that needs to be completed to become a surgeon; training takes several years and many women may decide against starting training because they want to have children in the future and do not want to disrupt their studies.
Research also suggests that a lack of female role models may play a part in the low numbers of female surgeons, as the vast majority of the top positions and senior surgical posts are held by men.
Despite the relatively low numbers of female surgeons, there has been an increase in the number of female consultants in certain specialities, including paediatrics and psychiatry.
Becoming a surgeon
Becoming a surgeon is a long and challenging journey; it involves years of additional training and study after graduating with a degree in medicine. After graduation, doctors are required to do two years of foundation training in a variety of different specialities; after this time they can choose to progress and undergo core surgical training (this lasts for 2 years), followed by speciality training, which may take up to six years.
Surgeons specialise in different areas of the body; different surgical specialities include cardiothoracic surgery, paediatric surgery, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery and ear, nose and throat surgery.