Viral Social Media Campaign Shines Light on the Gender Gap in Surgery


The discussion about gender diversity in the surgical specialties has recently been brought back to our attention, following a tweet going viral and bringing the social media campaign #Ilooklikeasurgeon from 2015 back to life.

new-yorker-0This followed the April 3rd cover of The New Yorker magazine, in which artist Malika Favre portrayed four women in scrubs, in an operating theatre.

Many were surprised to see all surgeons were women, which also served as inspiration to Susan Pitt, MD, MPHS, assistant professor of endocrine surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, to recreate the scene with her colleagues and share the photo on social media.

Dr Pitt chose to use the hashtag #Ilooklikeasurgeon, relating the current event to the viral campaign from two years ago which aimed to break down industry stereotypes and help attract more women to surgery. Dr Pitt also created the #NYerORCoverChallenge campaign, which has, in a few short weeks, inspired thousands of women around the world to upload their own re-creations of the iconic magazine cover.

According to Symplur, a social media tracking website, #Ilooklikeasurgeon has been tweeted over 18 000 times, reaching an estimated 180 million impressions. And though some people’s reaction to the movement was to tell surgeons to “stop taking photos and get back to taking care of patients,” overall responses have been overwhelmingly positive, according to Dr Pitt.

The original creator of the 2 year old hashtag, Heather Logghe, MD, clarifies that it was originally created with the purpose to humanise surgeons and to show that medical professionals don’t all have to fit in the “straight white male” stereotype. Her idea was for surgeons to share photos of themselves with their families, or doing mundane things, like exercising or cooking. But she is very pleased with the new energy her hashtag has received, and is happy with the new focus on female empowerment.

While hashtags and social media campaigns do help attract more women to surgery and the medical field, sexism in the industry is still alive, and much more common than some would like to believe. One of the biggest issues the few women in surgery have to face, is the extreme gender pay gap in the industry, worse than the overall gap in other industries.

The gender pay gap in surgery is actually getting worse over the years; in 2004, male surgeons earned 21 per cent more than their female colleagues. Two years ago, in 2015, the gap increased to 41 per cent in the USA.

The gender pay gap in surgery report shows that even once all factors often used to justify the pay gap are considered – such as maternity leave, being less experienced, and being less likely to hold high profile positions –, the gap is still not completely accounted for – meaning that the reasons for up to 50 per cent of the pay gap for trainees and 40 per cent for female specialists remain unknown.

While social media campaigns are highly unlikely to actually close the gender gaps, they are extremely useful in shining a light at the issues we currently face as an industry, and they offer us a platform to understand different perspectives and discuss possible solutions.


If you’d like to join us in a discussion, leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages. For more information on the campaigns and report mentioned in this article, see below:

2017’s #Ilooklikeasurgeon:

2015’s #Ilooklikeasurgeon:

The gender pay gap in surgery report: