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November 1996

Experiences of Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery: A Gender Comparison

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery (Drs Dresler and Patterson) and Plastic Surgery (Dr Mackinnon), Washington University, St Louis, Mo, and School of Social Welfare, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Dr Padgett).

Arch Surg. 1996;131(11):1128-1134. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430230010002

Objective:  To assess the career and practice experiences of cardiothoracic surgeons, with references to gender similarities and differences.

Design:  Four-step mailed 115-question survey.

Subjects:  All identified women, and a cohort of men, certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

Main Outcome Measures:  Academic rank, career background, salary, perceptions and experiences of harassment or discrimination, and personal life characteristics.

Results:  No differences were found in training backgrounds. More men (64%) than women (52%) were in university practices. Comparable proportions of men and women were assistant professors (27%), but more men (27%) than women (13.6%) were full professors. Fifty-eight percent of women and 21% of men reported salaries of less than $250 000; 62% of men and 32% of women had incomes over $350 000. Career satisfaction was comparable between genders; however, women perceived the promotion process as unfair and unrelated to academic rank. Both genders encouraged men toward a surgical career; men were less likely than women to encourage women to pursue a surgical career (P<.01). Women, much more than men, believed that discrimination hindered their career development (P<.001). Characteristics of personal life were also considerably different between the genders.

Conclusion:  Although practice and training parameters for male and female cardiothoracic surgeons are comparable, work experiences, personal life, and career rewards such as salary and promotion, and perception of discrimination are different.Arch Surg. 1996;131:1128-1134

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