Objective: To survey Hong Kong women surgeon's current situation: their ability to balance career, personal and family life, and to look into some gender-specific issues.
Methods: A 28-item questionnaire online survey was emailed to 142 female and 761 male surgeons with questions asking about four areas: demographic data, job satisfaction, work life balance and work opportunity.
Results: Fifty-eight female and 114 male surgeons completed the questionnaire. The mean age of female surgeon respondents was significantly younger than male surgeon respondents (33 vs 43 years, P < 0.001). Both female and male surgeons worked long hours (70% female and 64% male worked >= 60 hours per week, P = 0.402); however, both felt satisfied or very satisfied with their current job situation (74% female and 76% male, P = 0.536) and were happy or very happy with other aspects of their lives (84% female and 82% male). More male respondents were married (83% male vs 35 % female, P < 0.001) and more married men had biological children at the time of the survey (83% male vs 62% female, P = 0.034). Both married males and females had family commitments affecting training, career advancement and overseas training. The majority of male and female surgeons did not experience discrimination during training or career advancement; however, more females felt discriminated against during selection and training processes (25% female vs 12% male, P = 0.001) and during career advancement (18% female vs 10% male, P = 0.013).
Conclusion: Our survey results showed that both female and male surgeons are able to combine productive careers with satisfactory personal and family lives. However, both female and male surgeons faced many difficulties in their working lives; women may have more difficulties regarding family issues, as our survey showed that more women surgeons remained single and more married women surgeons had no children. Policies that facilitate a work life balance are important to attract and retain the best and talented physicians, regardless of sex. In view of the increasing number of women surgeons, frequent surveys are needed to determine whether women surgeons experience a working environment that ensures a level playing field.