This study was conducted to better understand the pervasive gender barriers obstructing the progression of women in surgery by synthesising the perspectives of both female surgical trainees and surgeons.
Five electronic databases, including Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL and Web of Science Core Collection, were searched for relevant articles. Following a full-text review by three authors, qualitative data was synthesized thematically according to the Thomas and Harden methodology and quality assessment was conducted by two authors reaching a consensus.
Fourteen articles were included, with unfavorable work environments, male-dominated culture and societal pressures being major themes. Females in surgery lacked support, faced harassment, and had unequal opportunities, which were often exacerbated by sex-blindness by their male counterparts. Mothers were especially affected, struggling to achieve a work-life balance while facing strong criticism. However, with increasing recognition of the unique professional traits of female surgeons, there is progress towards gender quality which requires continued and sustained efforts.
This systematic review sheds light on the numerous gender barriers that continue to stand in the way of female surgeons despite progress towards gender equality over the years. As the global agenda towards equality progresses, this review serves as a call-to-action to increase collective effort towards gender inclusivity which will significantly improve future health outcomes.