The role of women in Western society has changed dramatically in the past several decades. Despite this, many gender inequality still exist for professionals in the health care sector. In neurosurgery, a disproportionately small percentage of the workforce in the United States and Canada is female. These figures are lower than most reported in other medical specialties. A review critically examines factors that may be influencing women’s ability to advance in demanding subspecialties such as neurosurgery.
The literature on women in medicine, and surgery, in particular, were reviewed to identify different issues facing women currently in practice in neurosurgery. In addition, the concerns of prospective trainees were examined.
There remain many challenges for women entering neurosurgery, including unique lifestyle concerns, limited mentorship, outdated career programs, and deep-seated societal beliefs. Discrimination and harassment are also contributing factors.
If neurosurgery is to continues to progress as a subspecialty, the issue of gender inequality needs to be scrutinized more closely. Innovative programs must be developed to meet the needs of current female faculty members and to ensure attracting the brightest individuals of both genders into a career in neurosurgery 2).
Surgeons who abuse other health care workers are in violation of institutional bylaws and compliance regulations and create a hostile environment at work which adversely affects efficient productivity and violates specific State and Federal laws which prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin 3).
The impact of workplace discrimination has gained recognition. Nearly two-thirds of all medical residency applicants reported being asked inappropriate or potentially illegal interview questions. The use of such questions during neurosurgery residency interviews has not yet been studied.
Limoges et al. evaluated the prevalence of inappropriate or potentially illegal questions in residency interviews and the impact on applicants’ rank lists.
All 2018 to 2019 United States neurosurgery resident applicants were anonymously surveyed. The survey included 46 questions focused on demographics; if they were asked questions regarding rank list, age, gender, marital status, family planning, religion, sexual orientation, or disability and whether such questions affected their rank list formation.
Of 265 surveyed United States applicants, 133 (50%) responded. Most respondents were male (78%), 24% were married, and 10% had children. During the formal interview, 94% were asked at least 1 inappropriate or potentially illegal question. About 78% reported being asked about marital status, 29% were asked about intent to have children. About 46% reported being counseled on their personal life, 30% were asked about their ethnic background, and 15% were asked about their religion. A total of 2 candidates reported questions about mental illness/disability, and 2 candidates reported being asked about sexual orientation. About 45% of applicants that were asked at least 1 of these questions ranked those programs lower.
Nearly all (94%) neurosurgical residency applicants reported being asked at least 1 inappropriate or potentially illegal question during interviews. The results indicate that inappropriate questions negatively affected program rankings 4).