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Stop the bleeding: we must combat explicit as well as implicit biases affecting women surgeons
  1. Brandi Braud Scully1,2
  1. 1 The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Johns Hopkins, JHU Berman Institute of Bioethics, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2 Cardiac Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brandi Braud Scully, JHU Berman Institute of Bioethics, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA; bscully4{at}

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When I was a 7 months pregnant medical student, an attending surgeon asked me to which specialty I would be applying. When I replied that I was hoping to match in general surgery, he touched my pregnant abdomen and said, “Not with that you’re not.”

I am not alone. Gender bias and discrimination have been shown to negatively impact women surgeons throughout their careers and deter women from even applying in surgical fields.1 Bias against female surgical trainees leads to less operative autonomy and higher dropout rates.2 3 Once faculty, women surgeons are less likely to reach leadership roles.4 Recent studies confirm the author’s assertion that implicit biases create substantial harm.

The author has undertaken an important study, conducting in-depth interviews with 46 women surgeons in Australia that identifies four distinct types of bias causing cumulative harm. In all four types of biases: (1) Workplace factors including leave policies and mentorship. (2) Epistemic injustices, or unfair assessments of women surgeons’ credibility by patients and colleagues. (3) Stereotyped expectations. (4) Objectification, implicit biases were seen. While many of the broad factors impeding women in surgery are well known, the author argues that these subtler factors, including both implicit bias and epistemic injustice, have a large impact.

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  • Twitter @ScullyBrandi

  • Contributors BBS is the sole author of this commentary.

  • Funding This study was funded by Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics Hecht-Levi Fellowship in Bioethics.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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