500 Women in Medicine Launches

500 Women in Medicine (500WIM) is a satellite of 500 Women Scientists established by Kate Gerull, Jane Hayes, Iris Kuo, Maren Loe, and Tamara Sanchez-Ortiz, five medical students on a self-described mission to improve gender equity in medicine. For 25 years, women have represented more than 40 percent of medical school matriculants but continue to be underrepresented in positions of academic medical leadership.

“It is strange to think that my male classmates in medical school have a higher likelihood of becoming the leaders in medicine simply because of their gender. I want to do something about that,” says 500WIM leader Jane Hayes in a news release.

In order for women physicians to have equal opportunities to take on leadership in academic medicine, they must be visible and have a platform in the public sphere. But the group notes that this visibility is still lacking. When Robyn Klein, MD, PhD, asked the organizers of a conference why there were only 13 women among the 85 speakers, she says she was told there just weren't as many highly qualified women in the field. In response, Dr. Klein gathered data showing that men and women in neuroimmunology publish at equal rates in high impact journals. Dr. Klein's work and similar studies illustrate that equally qualified women are not recognized for their expertise. Few opportunities to share their research and ideas in front of their colleagues is one of many factors that limit women's career advancement opportunities.

Reflecting on their own experiences, five women medical students were prompted to take action and create a platform to highlight publically the contributions of women in medicine. In line with the 500 Women Scientists mission, 500WIM strives to increase resources for and visibility of women and their accomplishments in academic and clinical medicine.

“The five of us saw this problem of representation and visibility and decided to do something about it. We identified 500 Women Scientists as a leading organization for women in STEM and approached them with the idea to more intentionally include women in medicine into their ongoing efforts,” 500WIM founder Kate Gerull says. From these conversations, 500WIM was founded.

500WIM is currently working within 500 Women Scientists to integrate medical disciplines into the existing “Request a Woman Scientist” database. The goal is to create an easily accessible public resource tailored to the healthcare industry to help find women in medicine by their education, specialty, and experience. This resource will enable conference organizers, journalists, researchers, and medical professionals to quickly and easily lookup women physicians and scientists.

When asked about the importance of the database, 500WIM leader Tamara Sanchez-Ortiz adds, “There are many women scientists and physicians doing groundbreaking work, and with this database, we will leverage technology to bring greater awareness and facilitate connections between the academic community and public.”

For more information visit 500womenscientists.org/medicine or follow @500WIM on Twitter and @500womeninmedicine on Instagram.

WDS Forum Set for February

As part of its new initiative, treating the total woman by addressing total women's health via the dermatology gateway, the Women's Dermatology Society (WDS) is expanding the previous MELD Forum into the WDS Forum. The Forum will be held at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas on February 8-10.

The new WDS Forum will feature a more robust CME program with speakers from different areas of women's health, topics on leadership, as well as the latest updates in dermatology. There will also be an interactive session with industry partners, breakfast symposia, and updates from the WDS Academic Research Awardees on their research. For more information, visit womensderm.org/events/wds-forum

More than half of UK Female Surgeons have Experienced Workplace Discrimination

More than half of female surgeons in the UK have faced or witnessed discrimination in the workplace, suggest the results of a confidential online poll, published in the online journal BMJ Open. Orthopedics was seen as the most sexist of all the surgical specialties, the responses showed.

Despite women making up more than half of medical school entrants in the UK, less than a third opt for a career in surgery, which is widely acknowledged to be a male-dominated environment. But few studies have looked at the way in which women feel their male surgical colleagues perceive them. To address this, the researchers analyzed the responses of 81 female surgeons to an online survey (42 percent response rate) about their perceptions and experiences of working in the field; what obstacles they had faced in their careers; and what they thought would help to overcome these.

The survey was distributed through the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI) women in surgery Facebook page and shared on Twitter for two weeks in October 2017.

The ASGBI Facebook group is mainly made up of women (90 percent), aged between 25 and 34 (39 percent) and 35-44 (30 percent). Most surgeons in the group come from the UK (70 percent), but it also includes doctors from India, Pakistan, USA, Europe, and Africa.

Analysis of the responses identified several perceived barriers to a surgical career for women: poor work-life balance; inflexibility over part-time careers; gender stereotyping; and lack of formal mentorship.

And around one in five (22 percent) felt that there was a “tangible glass ceiling,” with an overriding feeling that the working culture is geared to men.

Half of the respondents agreed that motherhood and childcare commitments are the greatest obstacles for women wanting a career in surgery.

There is existing support for mothers working in surgery, but women are, “presumed to deskill during maternity leave and are discouraged from working part time,” say the researchers.

With fewer women represented at senior levels, this could reinforce the idea that surgery is a male-dominated environment, they suggest.

But respondents felt that patients were often just as guilty of assuming women couldn't be surgeons: “Significantly more patients call me nurse or lady doctor than any of my colleagues,” commented one respondent.

Nearly a third of respondents said that sexist language should be challenged. Other suggestions for tackling discrimination included more female role models and mentors; destigmatisation of career breaks for women; flexible training/career options; better work-life balance; and improved understanding of the impact of childcare responsibilities on working life. The study is based on a small online survey, so it might not be representative of the female surgical workforce, the authors point out. But the poll nevertheless, “illuminates the lived realities of female surgeons in the UK today,” they suggest.

With around six in 10 women reporting experience of discrimination, the responses suggest, “an ancient culture pervading our society since the 1800s, at the time of the first female surgeon in the UK, Elizabeth Garrett,” they write.

Active Physicians by Sex and Specialty

According to the 2018 Physician Specialty Data Report from the AMA, in 2017, more than one-third (35.2 percent) of the active physician workforce in the United States was female. Percentages of females in the top specialties ranged from a high of 63.3 percent in pediatrics to a low of 5.3 percent in orthopedic surgery.

Source: AMA Physician Masterfile (December 2017). Note: Excludes 1,086 active physicians whose sex is unknown.