Advance Access: Tracking Career Paths of Women in Neurosurgery

It has been nearly 2 decades since women first became the majority of medical school applicants in the Unites States.1 Since then, women continue to represent 50% of medical school students.1 However, the subspecialty choices of women physicians differ from their male counterparts. Neurosurgery is especially notable in the disproportionate representation of men and women. In 2016, women made up 16.3% of neurosurgery residents (232/1417 total neurosurgery residents), and represented a disparate 6.1% of board-certified neurosurgeons (259/4178 diplomats; personal communication, American Board of Neurological Surgery [ABNS]). The recruitment of women into neurosurgery and promotion within academic neurosurgery is vital to mentoring the cohort of talented female medical students and attract them into the field.

The disproportionate trend of the recruitment and retention of women in neurosurgery was recognized in a 2008 white paper calling for regular assessment of women in the field along with milestones for future progress.2 Obstacles identified included absence of a critical mass of female neurosurgeons in academic medicine, lack of mentoring network for women interested in pursuing neurosurgery, poor exposure to the field during medical school, and concerns regarding gender inequity.2 Programs identified within the paper addressed mentoring and potential neurosurgery exposure opportunities. Goals for the future proposed by the Women in Neurosurgery (WINS) and espoused by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) centered on increasing the number of women in neurosurgery and included that 20% of each class entering neurosurgical residency by 2012 be women.2 While there has been gradual improvement, that goal has yet to be attained. In the 2016 match, 17% of matched applicants were women (n = 36/212), up from 14% in 2014.3

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