When Not Winning Means Losing: Underrepresentation of Women Surgeons in Recognition Awards at a Single Institution
*Heather G. Lyu, Douglas S. Smink, Pardon R. Kenney, *Nelya Melnitchouk, *Nancy L. Cho
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Objective: Awards are frequently cited as external markers of professional achievement that are instrumental in career advancement. The aim of this study was to characterize the gender distribution of surgeons and trainees who received department awards.
Design: Descriptive analysis of recipients of six surgical department awards (four resident and two faculty awards) from 1990 through 2017.
Setting: A single high volume teaching hospital.
Participants: All surgical faculty and PGY-3, PGY-4, and chief residents.
Main Outcome Measures: Total numbers and percentages of male versus female surgical trainees and faculty members who received a department award since 1990.
Results: From 1990 - 2017, no women (0%) were chosen for the award recognizing a “faculty member who continues the distinguished tradition of excellence in the guidance, counsel, and teaching of senior surgical residents.” Only 2 women (8%) were chosen for a faculty award recognizing a “master surgeon and inspiring teacher.” Similarly, for trainees, only 1 woman (4%) was chosen for an award recognizing “the senior resident who best exemplifies excellence, uncompromising loyalty, and conscientious teaching.” Interestingly, all 3 of these awards were chosen by residents and demonstrated significant underrepresentation of women, despite the substantial number of both female surgical residents (currently 47%) and faculty members (currently 29%) in the department. In contrast, resident awards chosen by faculty and medical students were more proportionately distributed with 7/16 (44%) female recipients of a PGY-3 award, 4/11 (36%) female recipients of a PGY-4 award, and 3/18 (17%) female recipients of a PGY-5 teaching award.
Conclusions: Women surgeons and trainees are underrepresented in department recognition awards, especially when selected by trainees. These findings may represent implicit bias and warrant educational interventions.