Gender Diversity in Orthopaedic Surgery – New Zealand

By Margy Pohl

New Zealand’s data reflects striking similarities compared to other Western nations. 2019 data shows 4.7 % of active fully vocationally registered qualified orthopaedic surgeons are female. Currently 18% of orthopaedic trainees are female with numbers increasing in recent years. Selection processes have been restructured to allow consideration of diversity as a factor in selecting trainees from candidates who otherwise rank equally. Numbers of females presenting for selection to orthopaedic training however remain low. Recent New Zealand surveys of medical students and junior doctors suggest that students’ perceptions of Orthopaedics, particularly as a career for females, form a considerable barrier.

Positive efforts to increase the number of female junior doctors considering Orthopaedics as a career have been undertaken by LIONZ (Ladies in Orthopaedics New Zealand). LIONZ was initiated in 2017 and acts as an informal support network for all female registrars and consultants, and assists NZOA with matters of relevance specifically to female trainees. LIONZ organises introductory saw bone workshops for female medical students led by senior registrars and surgeons, together with offering collegiality and mentorship. While these have proved immensely popular with students, it is too early to say whether they will result in influencing career choices.

While the NZOA are committed to improving diversity and representation by females, challenges arise from having such a small number of female surgeons available.  Females are represented currently on the NZOA Council and Orthopaedic Training Board and comprise over 20% of RACS Examiners. As we develop a greater cohort of female colleagues we expect these numbers will increase in the near future.

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