Background: Participation of women at national surgery conferences is an important aspect of achieving gender equity; however, participation has to be meaningful and representative of scientific and clinical achievement. We hypothesized that the presence of women on planning committees would increase the number of women speakers and the presence of women as moderators would increase the number of women panelists. Furthermore, we hypothesized that although women may be included as speakers, they are less likely to speak on clinical and technical surgical topics than men. Methods: Four 2018 national surgery conferences were chosen for investigation: Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Academic Surgical Conference, and the American Society of Breast Surgeons because of varied subject matter. The published online conference programs were reviewed and participant gender, presentation role, type, and topic were recorded. Submitted abstract and scientific articles were excluded from analysis; moderators of these sessions were included. Statistical analyses were performed using chi-squared tests and t-tests where appropriate. Results: The overall mean percentage of female speakers was 28%. The percentage of women on the program committees positively correlated with the number of women speaking at the conference (Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, 15.4% women on committee vs 18.92% speakers; Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, 27% versus 22%; Academic Surgical Conference, 38.5% versus 32%; and the American Society of Breast Surgeons, 50% versus 58.55 %; P < 0.001). Panels with greater than 50% female moderators were more likely to have female panelists than those with less than 50% female moderators (23.6% versus 14.8%; P < 0.001). Women were most likely to present awards, introductions, and keynote speeches, then most likely to speak on professionalism (54.84% and 36.29%; P < 0.001). They were significantly less likely to present on a clinical topic, technical skill, or moderate a scientific presentation (25.68% and 26.75%; P < 0.001). Conclusion: Despite increasing attention on improving diversity at surgical conferences, disparities continue to persist. As demonstrated in nonsurgical literature, planning committee gender diversity positively correlated with speaker diversity, and moderator diversity positively correlated with panel diversity. Women were more likely to speak on topics considered “soft sciences”, such as professionalism and advocacy, and less likely to present on clinical topics, technical skill, or scientific research.
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