Women Continue to Be Underrepresented in Surgery: A Study of AMA and ACGME Data from 2000 to 2016

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Objective: In the past decade women have comprised nearly half of U.S. medical school graduates. However, women remain underrepresented among surgical residents and practicing surgeons. We conducted the current study to assess recent trends in the female-to-male (F:M) ratios among residents and physicians pursuing careers in surgery. Design: We used retrospective population statistics published by the American Medical Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education from 2000 to 2016. We compared trends of female-to-male ratios among residents and surgeons in surgical subspecialties to evaluate for potential differences over time. Setting: Published online population statistics. Participants: We stratified both board-certified surgeons and surgical residents by sex and specialty. Results: From 2000 to 2013, the proportion of female surgeons among all female physicians remained constant (12%-13%). The proportion of board-certified female surgeons to all surgeons increased (from 15% in 2000 to 25% in 2013). The F:M ratios of board-certified surgeons in neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery were 1:10.6 and 1:13.9, with resident ratios 1:4.8 and 1:5.9, respectively. One specialty with increasingly equivalent ratios is plastic surgery with integrated resident F:M ratios of 1:3.1 in 2008 to 1:1.4 in 2015, and board-certified plastic surgeons of 1:9.2 in 2008 to 1:5.3 in 2013. Conclusion: Although the gender gap is narrowing, women continue to be underrepresented in surgical specialties. It is important for fields with disproportionate representation to be aware of these differences and take steps toward creating and supporting a more diverse workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-368
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Female plastic surgeons
  • Female surgeons
  • Gender differences among surgeons
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Patient Care
  • Professionalism
  • Surgical workforce
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • Women in surgery
  • Work force diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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