OBJECTIVE: To celebrate the increasing representation of women as leaders in American surgery and provide suggestions for increasing diversity in leadership. BACKGROUND: Women were barred from entering the practice of medicine or surgery until the mid 1800's when Elizabeth Blackwell led the way as the first woman admitted to medical school. Although the numbers of women practicing medicine and surgery have increased exponentially since Dr Blackwell graduated, the number of women in leadership positions has remained low until recently. METHODS: An analysis of the literature on the history of women in surgery and the websites of the major surgical societies. RESULTS: More women are now rising to leadership positions in surgery, both in academics and within surgical organizations. The American College of Surgeons and many other surgical societies, as well as an increasing number of academic departments of surgery have realized that women can be inspiring and capable leaders. However, increasing the number of under-represented minority women in leadership positions remains an opportunity for improvement. CONCLUSIONS: Great progress has been made in the advancement of women into leadership positions in surgery. To continue this trend and increase the number of under-represented minority women in surgery will require attention to recruitment, mentorship, and sponsorship.
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