New research suggests progress has been made in efforts to reduce gender bias against female surgical faculty members.
An analysis of teaching evaluations conducted by surgical trainees of more than 1,700 faculty members across 21 general surgery residency programs found women faculty scored on average higher than men, receiving 90.6% versus 89.5%.
The findings of the study were published Friday in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, which were based on more than 20,000 surgical trainee evaluations collected from July 2018 to June 2019.
The results bellied previous studies that found female surgical faculty members often received poorer teaching evaluations than their male counterparts. Experts have suggested the disparity in evaluations was partly the result of gender bias on the part of surgical trainees, a field that has traditionally been made up of men despite women making up more than a third of all active physicians, according to 2017 figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Lower evaluation scores can have long-term consequences for women faculty members in terms of limiting opportunities for career advancement and could negatively impact job satisfaction.
Such concerns add to the many challenges women in the medical field face regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and bias.
A 2019 study published in Annals of Surgery found bias against women was more likely to occur in the surgical field compared to other medical specialties.
"This shift will hopefully allow women to reach higher academic positions and leadership positions in surgery," said lead study author Dr. Adam Shellito, a fourth-year surgical resident at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in a written statement.
Study researchers theorized the improvement in evaluation scores may be because those female faculty were better educators, or that it reflects an overall changing of attitudes as more women enter the field. In 2018, 41% of all surgery residents were women according to the AAMC, a 5% percent increase over 2017, according to the AAMC.
"Hopefully, based on our results, we're seeing a shift in attitudes and perceptions of surgical residents about women in surgery and women as educators so that all surgeons are graded on an equal scale," Shellito said.