The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) is to implement a series of measures to improve the number of women working as surgeons in Ireland.
Overall, only 7 per cent of surgical consultants are female, including about 10 per cent of general surgical consultants and 21 per cent of plastic surgery consultants. Just 34 per cent of surgical trainees are women, despite women making up half of medicine graduates.
The RCSI and Minister for Health Simon Harris launched the results of a study by a working group which has made several recommendations on how to combat the gender imbalance.
The report found the biggest barriers to women progressing in the field were working conditions during pregnancy and the lack of support available to women returning to work after an absence or maternity leave.
It recommended women studying medicine should be encouraged to consider a career in surgery after they graduate.
The report was produced by the RCSI’s working group on gender diversity, chaired by Deborah McNamara, a consultant in general and colorectal surgery in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
Speaking at its launch she said “if surgery is less appealing to women than to men, we need to know why and remove the obstacles. There is a striking absence of female surgeons in senior academic positions.
“We also need career structures that enable surgeons to vary the tempo of their professional life during different periods.”
Mr Harris said implementation of the report’s recommendations should make a significant contribution to tackling the barriers to gender equality in surgery.
Take the lead
President of the RCSI Prof John Hyland said the college was a powerful voice in setting standards and influencing surgical culture in Ireland, and it must take the lead and show results from this initiative.
“RCSI has been at the forefront of developing selection processes for future surgeons, and we are proud of our tradition of supporting women in surgery. The publication of this report and implementation of the findings demonstrates RCSI’s commitment to addressing this imbalance in the profession” he said.