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Arch Surg. 2000 Aug;135(8):972-7.

Perceived obstacles to career success for women in academic surgery.

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Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Health System, 1500 E Medical Center Dr, 2921 Taubman Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0331, USA.



We conducted this study to determine whether concerns expressed by male and female surgeons at 1 academic center are generally reflective of broader concerns for academic surgery and academic medicine. We reviewed published studies concerning women in academic surgery within the context of reporting the results of a survey of both male and female surgeons at 1 academic center.


We developed a survey that included demographic information, work experience, and social issues. The survey was distributed to the entire faculty. For key questions, we compared answers between male and female faculty. Additional data came from the published literature.


We reviewed all available studies identified by a MEDLINE search with key words women and academic and medicine or physician. Included studies contained either data collection or editorial comment concerning women in academic medicine.


Data and opinions from all included studies paralleling survey questions were extracted from each article.


Male and female faculty members reported different experiences and perceptions, specifically relating to relationships between family and professional life and perceptions of subtle sex-related biases. Both men and women reported insufficient mentoring and difficulties in balancing personal and professional responsibilities.


Attitudes, behaviors, and traditions surrounding how we structure work and evaluate participation in academic surgery are more difficult to change than just addressing obvious inequities in support for female surgeons. However, attempting the deeper changes is worthwhile, because addressing obstacles faced by female faculty, many of which also affect men, will allow progress toward environments that attract and retain the best physicians, regardless of sex.

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