In the United States, women comprise 16% of orthopaedic surgery residents, 4% of fellows, and 6% of practicing orthopaedic surgeons. The underrepresentation of women in surgical subspecialties may be because of lack of early exposure to female mentors. Conference speaker roles are important for visibility. This study aims to evaluate the representation of women in speaker roles and responsibilities at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) meetings over time.
The names of speakers and session titles at the annual AAOS meetings were obtained from conference programs for the years 2009, 2014, and 2019. Each speaker was classified based on sex and role. Sessions discussing scientific or surgical topics were classified as technical and those that did not were classified as nontechnical. Descriptive statistics are provided, as well as individual-year odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs) examining sex versus technical session status and sex versus speaker role; combined results controlling for year are calculated using the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel method.
Overall, 3,980 speaking sessions were analyzed; 6.8% of speaking sessions were assigned to women. Women were more likely than men to participate in nontechnical speaking roles (OR 3.85; 95% CI, 2.79 to 4.78). Among talks given by women, the percentage that were nontechnical increased (25.5% in 2009, 24.3% in 2014, and 44.1% in 2019). Among moderator roles, the percentage assigned to women increased (4.5% in 2009, 6.0% in 2014, 14.5% in 2019).
Our findings demonstrate an increase in female speakers at AAOS meetings from 2009 to 2019. The percentage of female moderators and nontechnical sessions given by women increased since 2009. A need for a shift in the distribution of speaker role exists, which promotes inclusivity and prevents professional marginalization. Representation of women as role models increases visibility and may address the leaky pipeline phenomenon and paucity of women in orthopaedics.