Neurol India Home 

Year : 2022  |  Volume : 70  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 1336--1337

Women in Neurosurgery

Bhagavatula Indira Devi 
 Senior Professor and Dean, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Bhagavatula Indira Devi
Senior Professor and Dean, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Devi BI. Women in Neurosurgery.Neurol India 2022;70:1336-1337

How to cite this URL:
Devi BI. Women in Neurosurgery. Neurol India [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 7 ];70:1336-1337
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Neurosurgery, at its basic core, is a field dedicated to the surgical exploration of the nervous system and its diseases. It can seem quite bizarre that we are currently discussing the nuances of gender politics in this scientific field. Yet, it has always been the need of the hour. The ground reality, even after decades of struggle, continues to paint a bleak picture when it comes to discrimination in the scientific field. This is obvious when it comes to developing countries and much worse with surgical specialties.

It is no guarded secret that women are actively discouraged from pursuing surgical fields, be it by their family and mentors or by their own apprehension at entering a male-dominated career. For the brave few who do take the plunge, what may await them is a lifetime of discrimination, poor job satisfaction, and a dearth of surgical and professional opportunities.

Is it getting better? Definitely. There is a global shift toward inclusivity at the workplace, either adopted or enforced. One can easily notice a higher female working population in most professions, including neurosurgery. The focus garnered by gender discrimination in the workplace over the last few decades has worked to bring attention to the issue and implement solutions to ensure change. The change, even though it may be occurring at a glacial pace, is happening.

The issue with discrimination and the solutions created to fix it is the obvious tendency for these solutions to create an even larger divide. Equality is a beautiful concept to dream of but an equally challenging concept to implement. Associations such as Women in Neurosurgery (WINS 1989) and Asian Women Neurosurgeons' Association (AWNA 1996) were created with the goal of addressing gender discrimination by various bodies. As highlighted in the recent article titled “Women in Neurosurgery: Historical Path to Self-Segregation and Proposal for an Integrated Future” published in Frontiers in Surgery by Garozzo et al.,[1] women's associations may only be paving a road forward to self-segregation and hence, turn out to be counterproductive in the end.

What is it like to be a woman in neurosurgery? Many female neurosurgeons report bias: this could be either explicit or implicit. It is important to remember though that bias is inherent in human behavior and could be multifactorial. It may also be related to religion, culture, and race. Not every instance of discrimination may boil down to gender. If one does choose to become a neurosurgeon, there should be only one reason for this choice: “Because I really wanted to become a neurosurgeon.” In an ideal world, career would be an intimately personal choice and the individual's decision would be supported by their loved ones. However, family does play a large role in shaping the future of children, especially in some areas of the world. Patriarchal societies are biased towards women and in such socio-cultural contests, a women's choice to become a neurosurgeon might be hindered by her family. Hence, a change in their collective mindset must be brought about in these communities.[2],[3],[4],[5]

Outlooks toward marital life, household work, and division of labor are consistently changing, and the scenario looks more progressive than it did a decade ago. When it comes to balancing marriage and a career in neurosurgery, it may be important to define one's goals and the compromises one is willing to make. Domestic responsibilities are becoming lesser and lesser of a woman's burden, and society seems to be progressive toward an equal division of labor even in the household. We have made good progress with gender equality in many professions, and neurosurgery should be no different.[3],[4],[5]

It can be counterproductive to approach this field with the expectation of being discriminated against. This would lead to a mindset that expects reservations and extra opportunities. Setbacks are a part of life, as are differences with colleagues. Within the job, satisfaction and fulfilment come from many aspects. It might be helpful to focus on the positives and amicably work to resolve the negatives.

Changing trends: In NIMHANS, the trend has been slowly and steadily changing. Over the last two years, out of ten residents who have joined the course, three have been women.

Advice to aspirants

If Neurosurgery is your calling, then take it up. Don't let someone else make this decision for you.


1Garozzo D, Rispoli R, Graziano F, Gerardi RM, Grotenhuis A, Jenkins A, et al. Women in neurosurgery: Historical path to self-segregation and proposal for an integrated future. Front Surg 2022;9:908540.
2Agaronnik N, Xiong GX, Uzosike A, Crawford AM, Lightsey HM 4th, Simpson AK, et al. The role of gender in academic productivity, impact, and leadership among academic spine surgeons. Spine J 2022;22:716-22.
3Kearns KN, Rabinovich EP, Shabo L, Shaffrey ME, Jane JA Jr, Park MS. Gender equity of promoting practices in academic neurosurgery in the United States. World Neurosurg 2021;158:139-47.
4Somma T, Cappabianca P. Women in neurosurgery: A young Italian Neurosurgeon's perspective. World Neurosurg 2019;125:15-8.
5Beltran JQ, Ogando-Rivas E, Nettel-Rueda B, Velasco-Campos F, Navarro-Olvera JL, Aguado-Carrillo G, et al. Women in neurosurgery: First neurosurgeon in Latin America and current Mexican leaders. World Neurosurg 2021;150:114-20.