In 2016, only 6.5% of practicing orthopaedic surgeons in the US were women. By contrast, 49% of all medical students in the US are women. That apparent discrepancy has sparked concern, conversations, and action in the orthopaedic community.
The current gender imbalance in orthopaedics would be even more stark were it not for two trailblazing women who lived during the early part of the 20th century. One of them, Ruth Jackson, MD, is the well-known namesake of today’s professional society of female orthopaedic surgeons. The other, New York City orthopaedist Marian Frauenthal Sloane, MD, has endured relative obscurity, until now.
The “What’s Important” essay by Hooper at al. in the June 5, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery profiles Dr. Frauenthal Sloane’s short but influential career as orthopaedic surgeon, researcher, author (she coauthored 2 JBJS articles in the 1930s), and teacher. Despite the long way we still have to go to achieve gender diversity in orthopaedics, the authors of this fascinating sketch conclude by saying that “without [Dr. Frauenthal Sloane’s] brief but profound influence, women orthopaedists would probably be in a very different place today.”
Read related OrthoBuzz post about diversity in orthopaedic surgery.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Megan Conti Mica, MD, in response to the 2018 Medscape Orthopaedist Compensation Report.
In a recently published Medscape survey looking at orthopaedic compensation, orthopods were the second-highest paid specialists overall. Despite that, only 51% of orthopaedist respondents to the Medscape survey felt they were fairly compensated. My question to you is: How fairly compensated would orthopods feel if that second-highest salary was decreased by $150,000 annually without reason?
While the reported overall wage gap between female and male physicians is more than $50,000 annually1, the Medscape survey found that the gender wage difference for orthopaedic surgeons was $143,000 annually—adding injury to insult. That annual gap would amount to $4 million of lost wages for women over a 30-year career as an orthopaedic surgeon.
Why does medicine in general and orthopaedics in particular have a gender gap? Is it because male surgeons have better outcomes than female surgeons? Not according to a 2017 study that found that patients of female surgeons experienced lower death rates, fewer complications, and fewer 30-day readmissions to the hospital, compared with patients of male surgeons.2 While I do not believe that gender alone makes one a better surgeon, I do believe that gender diversity within our field is imperative.
What is more disheartening is it seems no one with the power to make change is doing anything to close the gap. In 2009, only 4% of the AAOS fellows were female. Honestly, I cannot blame women for not trying to join the “boys club.” If someone told you that you would be a distinct minority in your profession, make less, and have to work harder, most rational human beings would find a different career. If we want more women in orthopaedics, we need to understand that the gender wage gap is just the surface of a bigger issue.
I challenge everyone (men and women) to do better. Help your female partners. Be more attentive and mentor female surgeons. Support women when they speak up, and champion for them when they don’t. The attributes that make a great orthopaedic surgeon—love of and dedication to this great specialty—are gender-neutral.
Megan Conti Mica, MD is a hand and upper-extremity surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical Center and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(9):1294-1304. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.3284
- BMJ 2017;359:j4366, Published 10 October 2017. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j4366