Why diversity among the Surgical Infection Society is important to help our society grow
Karla Bernardi MD, Nicole B. Lyons BS, Gabrielle E. Hatton MD, Shuyan Wei MD
There is growing awareness of persistent gender inequality in America, especially in the professional arena. Our recent study showed that of the 587 Surgical Infection Society (SIS) members, women comprised only 23%. There was a slow but steady rise in female representation from 2000 to 2017 as well as an increase in the number of female awardees in the society. Despite these improvements in female representation, female SIS leadership has decreased from 26.1% in 2000-2005, to less than 15% since then. Since its establishment 37 years ago, SIS has only had three female presidents!1
The benefits of gender diversity in competitive professional specialties has been proven. A recent Mckinsey report shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.2 Engaging more women, especially by encouraging interest in leadership positions has potential benefits for the society and its members, male and female. Diversity within surgical societies can promote new insights, ideas, innovation, and research.
Some ways to improve our diversity in leadership roles are:
- The leadership council and members should continuously and publicly promote diversity within the organization and in leadership positions.
- Identify our current strengths and weakness in promoting diversity with focus on increasing diversity in leadership.
- Annual sessions to educate and spread positive attitudes towards diversity during annual meetings. Emphasis should be placed on gender awareness and challenges predominately faced by women surgeons.
- Establish gender specific leadership workshops at meetings divided by level of training. In order to foster mentorship of female new members and to help members of both sexes to be better mentors.
- Active encouragement of new members, junior faculty, residents and students to volunteer for roles within the society via nomination by more senior members.
- Increased transparency in the nomination and election process for leadership positions.
Gender disparity is a problem resulting from societal barriers, insidious biases within the system, and personal biases. Only by recognition and acknowledgement can we start to make true changes. Often simply changing the system or how “we always do it” is the first necessary step. Diversity will enhance all aspects of our society, attract new members, expand our academic horizon, and improve the care we provide to our patients.
- Lyons, N., Bernardi, K., Huang, L., Holihan, J., Cherla, D., Martin, A., Milton, A., Loor, M., Ko, T., Liang, M. and Hydo, L. (2019). Gender Disparity in Surgery: An Evaluation of Surgical Societies. Surgical Infections. [online] Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30892131.
- Delivering Through Diversity. McKinsey & Company Organization 2018. (Accessed Nov. 27th 2018, at https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity?cid=other-eml-nsl-mip-mck-oth-1802&hlkid=de0d4b1c115b48789f32fe59b7a5fa68&hctky=1585197&hdpid=cf69bc13-2f25-43e6-8c6d-793294bbe44e.)