Report calls for more measures to encourage women to become surgeons

More than 50% of medical graduates are female but only 7% of consultant surgeons are women, a report has found.

Research by Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI ) has found that there are a number of barriers to women entering and progressing surgical careers, such as a lack of information and support during and after pregnancy.

It is aiming to provide these supports to encourage more women to consider careers as surgeons.

Dr Avril Hutch Head of the RCSI Equality and Diversity Unit said that there are a number of barriers stopping women such as a lack of information and support during and after pregnancy

"We want to ensure that surgery is an attractive career, that there's mentorship programmes for trainees, that there's adequate support for pregnant trainees, and we also want to ensure that there's opportunities for fellowships," she said.

She added: "When they get to their 30s, it's times when they are considering having families and things like that, and also it's a very competitive process to become a consultant surgeon, and our trainees are well equipped to do that, but we have to make sure that they have the resources to get to that top level."

The RSCI has made 25 recommendations including encouraging students, help for surgeons who are parents, advice on work-life balance and ensuring they've better access to and support for training fellowships abroad, which are often needed to progress their careers.

Deborah McNamara, Consultant surgeon and Chair of the RCSI Working Group on Gender Diversity, says women also need female surgical mentors.

"When they're in medical school, if they don't encounter female surgical academics, it's quite hard for them to envisage a world in which they might be successful as a surgeon," she said.

"And so sometimes they simply opt out of even considering surgery as a career and that's something we need to work on."

The RCSI is to work closely with the HSE on the issue and will publish an annual report on the progress made.

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