Does gender impact on female doctors’ experiences in the training and practice of surgery? A single centre study
Background: Surgery has been identified as a male-dominated specialty in South Africa and abroad. This study explored how female registrars perceived the impact of gender on their training and practice of surgery.
Method: A self-administered questionnaire was used to explore whether females perceived any benefits to training in a male-dominated specialty, their choice of mentors and the challenges that they encountered during surgical training.
Results: Thirty-two female registrars participated in the study. The respondents were mainly South African (91%) and enrolled in seven surgical specialties. Twenty-seven (84%) respondents were satisfied with their training and skills development. Twenty-four (75%) respondents had a mentor from the department. Seventeen (53%) respondents perceived having received differential treatment due to their gender and 25 (78.2%) thought that the gender of their mentor did not impact on the quality of the guidance received in surgery. Challenges included physical threats to female respondents from patients and disrespect, emotional threats and defaming statements from male registrars. Additional challenges included time-constraints for family and academic work, poor work-life balance and being treated differently due to their gender. Seventeen (53%) respondents would consider teaching in the Department of Surgery.
Conclusion: Generally, females had positive perceptions of their training in Surgery. They expressed concern about finding and maintaining a work-life balance. The gender of their mentor did not impact on the quality of the training but ‘bullying’ from male peers and selected supervisors occurred. Respondents will continue to recommend the specialty as a satisfying career to young female students.