What have GPs got against women surgeons?

It seems that one slip-up and they are written off for good

GPs are prejudiced against women surgeons, according to a study by a Harvard researcher, who has empirically tested whether gender influences the way information about others is interpreted.

sex symbols

Using referral volume to proxy for a GP’s beliefs about a surgeon’s ability, the author has found that, in the case of a death after surgery, GPs will attribute it to 'error’ by a woman surgeon vs ‘bad luck’ by a man.

“Gender influences the way information about others is interpreted,” writes Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate in economics.

She also shows that GPs reduce their referrals to women more than to men after bad outcomes and increase them more to men than to women after good outcomes.

Significantly, she notes that GPs use their experience with one woman to infer the ability of other women.

“After a bad experience with one female surgeon, primary care physicians become less likely to form new referral connections with women,” writes Ms Sarsons.

Female surgeons are "under-referred", even after adjusting for work hours, she says.

Ms Sarsons says the results of her work imply that, even if women are hired at the same rate as men, they receive fewer chances to show they can be successful.

You can access the paper here.