Sixty per cent of Australian medical students are women, and yet
women account for just 13 per cent of senior surgeons. RACS Fellows
Dr Christine Lai and Dr Rhea Liang recently appeared on the ABC's
Health Report program to discuss breaking down the barriers for
women in surgery.
Dr Christine Lai is an
Adelaide-based General and Breast Endocrine surgeon. She is also
the Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)
Women in Surgery Section and a RACS Councillor. She spoke about the
initiatives that RACS has put in place such as the Diversity
Inclusion Plan to address issues of bullying and harassment in
surgical practice and mentioned RACS' efforts to increase the
representation of women in the surgical training program across all
"When you look at women and men
in surgical committees in our College, there are now 27 per cent of
women on those main committees, up from 23 per cent in 2017. Last
year one out of three applicants were women, which has gradually
been climbing over the last few years, and 35 per cent of
successful trainees were women," said Dr Lai.
"It's very encouraging that
despite the previous bad press about the culture in surgery, there
are more women wanting to enter surgery, so presumably the programs
that the College has put in place are affecting workplace culture
where women are willing to pursue a career in surgery."
Dr Rhea Liang is a general
surgeon and incoming chair of the Operating with Respect committee
at RACS. Dr Liang recently released research that provided insights
into why so many more surgeons are men than women, despite the
increasing number of women in medicine.
The qualitative research titled
Why do women leave surgical training? A qualitative and feminist
study, was conducted by Dr Liang, in conjunction with Professor Tim
Dornan, of Queens University Belfast, UK and Professor Debra Nestel
of Melbourne University and published by leading medical journal
The Lancet. It asked women to describe in-depth why they had chosen
to leave surgical training soon after they had started it, despite
having aspired to the profession since childhood.
We are talking about things that
we wouldn't have dared talk about five or ten years ago, and I'm
very heartened, … And so even though it looks like we've got this
burgeoning problem, in actual fact what we are really doing is just
uncovering a terrible iceberg that has always been there," Dr Liang
Listen to the full interview.