Women surgeons suffer huge amount of abuse

By Agnes Rose

A Europe-wide survey has highlighted struggles of abuse and discrimination faced by female surgeons and is urging healthcare leaders across the globe to act.

Key findings include:

 72% of female surgeons surveyed have suffered or witnessed gender abuse;

 Over half have been personally attacked or humiliated at work by colleagues;

 Just 17% of male surgeons say they have witnessed gender discrimination at work;

 44% of both male and female surgeons feel their work institution or employer does not guarantee respect in gender equality, sexual orientation or race diversity.

In response to the study, which interviewed 300 female surgeons, the European Society of Coloproct­ology (ESCP) has launched its ‘Operation Equal Access’ campaign. 

This aims to expose and explore how a range of inequalities across the medical sector are impacting well-being, patient care and career progression.

Female surgeons received ‘widespread discrimination by male colleagues while they work’ including abuse and humiliation, according to the study.

Some 72% of female surgeons have witnessed or suffered gender inequality at work. Over half (56%) have endured personal attacks, a toxic work environment or even humiliating comments by colleagues.

Dr Franco Marinello, consultant colorectal surgeon at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, called the study a wake-up call. 

He said: ‘Discrimination in surgery continues to be an unresolved issue in many countries. We simply cannot accept unfair treatment any longer. We hope this new research highlights the struggles facing female surgeons and urge healthcare leaders across the globe to take action.’

Race and religious discrimination was an issue for one-in-ten (12%) surgeons. And those who have suffered racial or religious discrimination were particularly likely to observe a negative impact on their chances of receiving a promotion (39%) or to develop surgical techniques (27%).

ESCP member Vittoria Bellato added: ‘When speaking to colleagues about measures in place to counter inequality in medicine, we found the measures in place are specific to a single hospital unit, and not representative of a national framework.

‘Our campaign aims to help fill a gap in the data, initiate a pro-active conversation among surgeons on this issue and prompt positive change as a result of this exchange of information and ideas.’