Although women account for more than half of matriculating US medical students, they remain underrepresented in orthopaedic surgery, especially in leadership positions. This may, in part, be due to the disproportionate time spent on household responsibilities by women as compared to men. Understanding whether household responsibilities differ between female and male orthopaedic surgeons is critical to better understand how the demands of family life impacts their careers.
A 28-question multiple-choice anonymous online survey was sent via e-mail to 2,107 orthopaedic surgeons practicing at academic institutions in the United States. Survey questions related to the demographics of respondents, respondents' household responsibilities, and childcare methods.
The survey was distributed to 2,043 orthopaedic surgeons, and 377 responded (response rate: 18.4%). Both female surgeons with and without children reported performing most household tasks, including grocery shopping, laundry, and meal preparation (P < 0.05). There was not a statistically significant difference between male and female surgeons without children who performed household repairs/maintenance in their homes (P = 0.186) and household finances (P = 1.00). Among surgeons with children, significantly more male surgeons completed financial tasks in the home (182 of 252 [72.2%] and 27 of 61 [44.3%]; M versus F, P < 0.0005) and completed household repairs (158 of 260 [60.8%] and 12 of 61 [19.7%]; M versus F, P < 0.0005).
This study provides a quantitative breakdown of the hours of unwaged household work of male and female orthopaedic surgeons with and without children and asserts that although both male and female orthopaedic surgeons perform unwaged household work, women do substantially more than their male counterparts. Additional household responsibilities, or “family call,” create an environment of competing priorities for female orthopaedic surgeons, which may reduce the time they have to devote to clinical duties and professional advancement.