Women in Orthopaedic Surgery – Sweden

By Li Fellander-Tsai

In Sweden there has been a continuous increase in the number of female orthopaedic surgeons during the last 25 years. According to publicly available data from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (www.socialstyrelsen.se) there has been an increase from 54/878 (6%) females in 1995 to 263/1477 (18%) in 2017 according to the latest available statistics on licensed specialists in orthopaedic surgery.

Membership statistics from the Swedish Orthopaedic Association for 2019 show that 138/399 (35%) of residents in orthopaedic surgery are female and 231/1376 (17%) of fully qualified orthopaedic surgeons are female.

This increase has been expected in light of the total number of female medical students and graduates in Sweden. According to statistics from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (www.uka.se) 752/1334 (56%) of graduates from Swedish Medical Schools were female in 2018 and of newly accepted medical students (fall semester 2019) 544/990 (55%) were female.

Sweden has generous and progressive parental leave possibilities protected by law and paid for by the social security system. Currently 390 days of parental leave on par with the sick leave benefit is possible and paid by social security (90 additional days are available on a fixed level compensated with 180 SEK/day).

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Maternity leave was abolished in 1974 and replaced by parental leave (www.forsakringskassan.se). During the first year of this new order 0.5% of parental leave was used by men. Since then there has been a progressive movement to encourage diversity. In 1995 one month was reserved to each parent meaning that one parent cannot use all parental leave. In 1998 men used 10% of parental leave and women 90%. In 2002 two months were reserved to each parent and in 2016 three months were reserved for each parent. This has increased diversity in parental leave and in 2018, 29% of all parental leave was used by men and 71% by women.