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Introducing the Gender Equity in Global Surgery (GEGS) Initiative at the Harvard PGSSC

In the last couple of years there has been a widespread recognition of the gender inequity that exists in the medical workforce. This realization has been catalyzed by scattered movements around the world. One example is the recent investigation of Japan’s Tokyo Medical University, which deliberately deflated the scores of female applicants to reduce the proportion of women medical students. Another example occurred when the #MeToo movement emerged in medicine; more than 10,400 female doctors signed an appeal against sexual harassment in Sweden. Additionally, #ILookLikeaSurgeon swept across social media in 2017, shining light on the status of women surgeons in this heavily male-dominated field.

Malika Favre’s animated cover, titled “Operating Theater.” (The New Yorker 2017)

Indeed, now more than ever, the voices of women surgeons are being heard. But the glass ceiling and leaky pipelines in their career paths are conspicuous and hard to ignore: women account for only 8% of Professors in surgery, and consist of less than 20% of total surgeons in the United States. In Australia, female surgeons are significantly less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts and they get paid up to 60% less on average. Evidence also demonstrates that covert biases based on gender, aside from any objective measures of performance, hurt the evaluations of female surgeons for career advancements.

Here at the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, we acknowledge the pervasive gender-based inequality in surgical fields. We want to promote gender equity in global surgery, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 5. We believe that reducing gender inequality is a crucial component of surgical systems strengthening especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), a challenge that needs to be tackled in conjunction with the development of surgery. Under a new initiative called “Gender Equity in Global Surgery,” we plan to address gender disparities in the surgery, obstetrics, and anesthesia workforce worldwide through research, advocacy, and mentorship.

Our specific aims are:

  • To inform the surgical community and the public on gender disparities in SAO fields through research

  • To advocate for gender equality in SAO fields

  • To empower women surgeons, trainees, and medical students worldwide by creating a mentorship network


Rigorous research will form the basis of our work as we strive to address the gender disparities in global surgery. It will be our guiding hand for informed, evidence-based and data-driven advocacy to make social change. We are taking an analytical, problem-solving approach to the question: why are there so few women surgeons, and even fewer in faculty and leadership positions in surgery? We want to understand the systemic and perceived barriers for women in pursuing a surgical career, and also how they are manifested across different political, cultural, and economic contexts. Examples may include case studies of different countries to understand how sociocultural norms and expectations based on gender can influence surgical system and training culture or systematic reviews to understand the global picture of gender workforce inequity in surgery.


We must work tirelessly to promote our unified vision for global gender equity. It is not enough to merely conduct research. We must be able to communicate these important messages and ideals to academics, governments, and the public so that we can garner support and create lasting change. This strategy involves social media, publishing in academic journals and mainstream media, creating a public presence at international meetings and conferences, and being vocal at every opportunity. We hope to be a loud and resounding voice for the gender equity movement.


The bidirectional benefits of a mentorship program that is built upon and nurtured by mutually agreed upon goals and expectations are well recognised. Research shows that mentoring fosters professional and personal development, and also enhances the female leadership pipeline, marshaling the empowerment of women. Acknowledging the need for such a platform, we endeavour to build a mentorship network of enthusiastic and passionate women surgeons, trainees and medical students from all over the world. By devising a mentor-mentee matching system that is structured and continually evaluated for quality relationship building, we will provide a program that helps accelerate the advancement of personal growth and career development in women, subsequently challenging the status quo in the surgical field.

This initiative is meant to be inclusive, progressive, and dynamic. We hope to build a community with a shared vision for gender equity because we acknowledge that this is a critical step towards the provision of surgical care for all.

To join this initiative, please email one of the admin members:

Jackie Corley: @JacquelynCorley

Eliana Kim: @eliana_e_kim

Kate Wall @kate_wall4

Adelina Mazhiqi: @Adelina_Mazhiqi

Dominique Vervoort: @DVervoort94


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