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Female surgeons use Twitter to challenge stereotypes

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4361 (Published 11 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4361
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. 1BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}bmj.com

Female surgeons from around the world have taken part in a campaign aimed at challenging sex stereotypes in the specialty.

Using the social networking site Twitter, female surgeons tweeted photographs of themselves combined with the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon, to challenge the stereotype that most surgeons are men.

The campaign followed the success of #ILookLikeAnEngineer, which was launched by Isis Wenger, a software engineer in California. Wenger said that she had received negative comments after taking part in her company’s recruitment campaign (http://bit.ly/1Mg69AC).

Heather Logghe (@LoggheMD), a general surgery resident from North Carolina, tweeted about Wenger’s campaign and asked whether female surgeons should do something similar. She tweeted, “Hashtag aims to break gender stereotypes in Engineering—is #Ilooklikeasurgeon next?” In a blog post Logghe said that her tweet had opened a “floodgate of support” from surgeons on Twitter (http://bit.ly/1gXHs0z). She said, “As women surgeons, whether we are in our first year of training or an emeritus professor, it’s most important that we ourselves believe we ‘look’ like surgeons. Because we do.”

Nikki Stamp, a cardiothoracic surgeon from Sydney, Australia, who took part in the “This is what we look like” campaign on Tumblr and Twitter,1 also joined the campaign. In a blog post about #Ilooklikeasurgeon and #thisiswhatwelooklike (http://bit.ly/1htuO9o), Stamp said, “I want to show the world that I don’t have to be a stereotype to be a surgeon. Because I am a surgeon and this is what I look like.”

Surgeons in the UK have also been taking part. Reena Aggarwal (@drraggarwal), a registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology from London, tweeted, “[The] downside of being a female surgeon—people thinking I’m the nurse/midwife! #ILookLikeASurgeon.” Ed Fitzgerald (@DrEdFitzgerald), past president of the Association of Surgeons in Training, tweeted, “#ILookLikeASurgeon is no joke: our study [found that] 68% of female #NewDocs say surgery doesn’t welcome women.”

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